Tribute: Pete MacKay: Remembered for love of family and friends, and service to community

Editor’s note: Long-time Winnebago County Board member Pete MacKay passed away Dec. 13, 2011, at the age of 78. Following is a tribute in his honor written by his former county board colleague, Paul Gorski. Unfortunately, because of scheduling conflicts, the staff at The Rock River Times could not attend any of the memorial services for Mr. MacKay. Our entire office remembers fondly his booming, raspy voice, as his larger-than-life presence came through our front door many times over the years. While we had many disagreements with Pete, we usually endorsed him. We will miss him and wish the Winnebago County Board had more politicians and individuals like him. Accordingly, we invited Paul Gorski, for whom Pete had great admiration, to write this column of remembrance in honor of Pete MacKay.

By Paul Gorski

We lost a great leader when Peter M. “Pete” MacKay passed away in December. Pete served the community well and was the beloved voice of many residents during his long tenure on the Winnebago County Board and as Rockford Township Highway Commissioner.

The longest-serving county board member, Pete was often characterized as an “extreme” conservative by those who did not understand him. A conservative, yes, but Pete was simply watching government finances, as any good politician should.

Pete had an eye for detail and looked for the biggest bang for the buck without increasing government spending. He’d argue that anything less would be doing a disservice to local residents.

Pete’s love of public service was exceeded only by his love for his wife Rose, daughters Margot and Meredith, family and friends. Our conversations always opened with an update on family and friends, and then, and only then, would he move on to politics. His wife “Rosie” was still always in his thoughts after she passed away in 2009. And while we served on the county board, I can’t remember a single vote Pete made where he wasn’t thinking of people first.

Long-time friends Ken Becker and Frank Manzullo will tell you Pete had a big heart and was a kind and thoughtful soul, a testament to his faith in church and family. And with his old friends, and some new ones, Pete shared his love of guns, Illini sports, piloting planes and collecting old cars.

Pete’s hobbies and faith provided the basis for many discussions with local residents, another reason why he connected so well with so many people. A man of strong opinions, he was also a great listener. Even if you didn’t agree with Pete, you’d always be guaranteed an intelligent conversation, a trait that endeared him to even his staunchest opponents.

So, we say good-bye to our good friend, colleague and public servant Pete MacKay, who will be remembered most for his love of family and friends and his service to the community.

Paul Gorski is a Rockford resident and former Winnebago County Board member.

From the Jan. 11-17, 2012, issue

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