Rod ‘Roddy Mac’ MacDonald dies at 89

Rod MacDonald as kiddie show host Roddy Mac.
Rod MacDonald as kiddie show host Roddy Mac.

By Jessica MacDonald

Rod MacDonald, beloved actor and television personality, passed away Saturday, Jan. 31, at the age of 89. He is survived by his son, Scott MacDonald, daughters Kate MacDonald, Sarah (Vince) Aumann, stepdaughter Greta (Michael) Knell, nephew Mondest (Sara) Richards, and wife, Jessica MacDonald. Grandchildren are Arthur Aumann, Maxwell (Holly) Aumann, Ginny Aumann, Raymond Aumann, Vincent Aumann, Henry Knell, Hunter Knell. Rod is also survived by great granddaughter Damona Aumann.

As a young man, Rod served in the Army Air Force during World War II, finished his degree at UW Madison, and entered the burgeoning world of television, first in Madison, then in Rockford at WREX-TV. In the days when television personalities wore many hats, Rod donned a pom-pommed tam and invented the kiddie show host Roddy Mac, who continues to inspire a special fondness in middle-aged area residents.

As memorable as Rod’s television career remains, he went on to an even longer career as an equity actor in countless theater productions in Rockford and beyond.

Memorable roles include Will Loman in Death of a Salesman in Rockford and Madison, and Norman Thayer in On Golden Pond, one of many productions he appeared in with first wife, Ginny MacDonald. Together, Rod and Ginny brought sophistication and professionalism to Rockford theater and mentored many talented young people who went on to enjoy exceptional careers in the arts.

Rod’s family, friends and colleagues all describe themselves as better for having known his sweet, generous spirit, his unfailing sense of humor, and his kind and giving nature.

A public memorial will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Monday, Feb. 23, at the J.R. Sullivan Theater inside the Nordlof Center, 118 N. Main St., downtown Rockford.

Contributions can be made to the Rod MacDonald Scholarship Fund through the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois, 946 N. Second Street, Rockford, IL, 61107. Learn more at www.cfnil.org.

We cherish our memories of you, Rod.

For more information, go to www.facebook.com/FriendsOfRodMacdonald.

Editor’s note: The following article, “Rod MacDonald looks ahead to new radio show on 99.3 FM WTPB,” is from the May 14-20, 2008, issue of The Rock River Times.

Rod MacDonald looks ahead to new radio show on 99.3 FM WTPB

By Susan Johnson
Copy Editor

Local TV and stage personality Rod MacDonald is preparing to enter a new facet of show business — his own radio program. As reported previously, MacDonald has long been familiar to Rockford audiences as the host of the popular children’s TV program, The Roddy Mac Show, in the ’50s and ’60s. He has also appeared in local theater productions, such as Hometown Holiday.

The Rock River Times (TRRT) spoke with MacDonald recently and invited him to expound on his latest project and how it came about, as well as his plans for the future.

TRRT: Where did you get the idea for the new radio show?

Rod MacDonald (RM): I got the idea for it when I was scanning my car radio, and I stumbled across 99.3 FM WTPB, a low-power station. It originates from Third Presbyterian Church. I heard this music, and I thought, “Holy smokes! Don’t tell me there’s a radio station I can get that plays music where you can hear the words. And their melodies don’t blow you out of the room.” I did a children’s TV show for 18 years on WREX-TV from ’54 to ’71. It was called The Roddy Mac Show. I enjoyed it immensely, and then I dropped out of that and gave professional theater a try.

I joined Actors Equity Association (AEA), which is a union for stage actors. I also belong to Screen Actors Guild (SAG), of which Charlton Heston was president. He was a very special actor. Anyway, I’ve been in and out of theater — doing little, tiny pieces of movies, and a lot of commercials — over 4,000, mostly when I was doing the children’s show. I thought, “OK, I did 18 years for the kids; now I’m doing 18 years for the seniors.” This music really appeals to seniors, and their program is unobtrusive. You can listen to it, and it is very pleasant to listen to. The pastor who started it is a very nice man, and his name is Murray Hanson. He has one announcer who works on WTPB named John “Radio” Russell. He is on it, and I enjoy him. He is quite capable at what he does. I listen to it a lot, especially in the car. I decided that if they will accept me, I will give it 18 years for the seniors, and that will take me to the age of 100, and then I’ll retire. I’m 82 and in good health.

My son, Scott, is going to work with me. Scott has all kinds of broadcast experience in radio and TV, so he and I are going to do the show together. We will have guests and hopefully talk to seniors. The show will be called — a listener got the idea — we said we would solicit the title and see what the listeners would call it. That was an interview that John Russell conducted. They played it on the air, and one of the listeners called me and said, “They’ve got to call this: The Senior Moments.” I’m going to call it The Good Senior Moments. It’s going to be good in every respect. The music will be acceptable.

TRRT: How long will it be — an hour, a half-hour?

RM: Right now, we are talking about a two- or three-hour stretch on a Sunday afternoon. Then, we can take it from there and see if the public wants more.

TRRT: When is the first program scheduled to run?

RM: We don’t have the date yet, but it’s awfully close.

TRRT: Will there be any guest hosts on the show?

RM: Not guest hosts, but we will have guests. I have commitments already from at least a half dozen of the most interesting seniors in this city and more. We are all set for programs for the first few shows. One of the shows will feature Jane Neubauer (now Jane Threinen). One of the guests I want to get is John Porrazzo, who’s 92 years old. He plays jazz guitar; he’s a wonderful man. And we will try to get Guy Fiorenza, a bass player, and Matt Spinello, and Marge Henning, an actress who’s been on stage in Rockford, Janesville, and other cities. She’s a long-time performer. These are the kind of people I’m going after. I will try to get Del Peterson, the former police chief. We will have a good variety of folks, and there are more that people might suggest.

From the Feb. 4-10, 2015, issue

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