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Published: Tuesday, 11/13/2007

Prestolite executive enjoyed travel

Harold "Mac" MacDonell, 85, who began his four-decade career with the Electric Auto-Lite and Prestolite companies punching computer cards before becoming a manager at the company's Toledo headquarters, died Saturday in Flower Hospital.

The family did not know the cause of death.

A native of Port Huron, Mich., Mr. MacDonell was fresh out of high school when he joined the Toledo company at its Port Huron plant in the early 1940s. It was a brief stint, however, as Mr. MacDonell soon enlisted in the Army during World War II.

In later years, he spoke proudly of his three years in the service, a time in which he saw action in the jungles of the Philippines and was stationed in Japan, his son, Steve MacDonell, said.

He achieved the rank of staff sergeant, and received the Bronze Star and the Expert Infantryman Badge among other decorations.

Following the war, he returned to Port Huron and his job at the plant, and began attending classes at Port Huron Business College.

In 1946, he married Barbara Porter.

Electric Auto-Lite had as many as 23 factories in the United States and Canada during its postwar heyday, with payroll numbers in the thousands.

Mr. MacDonell was among the first punch-card operators for the company's early computers, and designed various number-crunching programs for the massive machines, his son said.

Following his promotion to various supervisory positions, Mr. MacDonell began working at the company's downtown Detroit office in 1963, where he became a service parts distribution manager.

By that time, the company had changed its name to Prestolite, under which it eventually would change hands as a division of several companies.

In 1977, the company transferred Mr. MacDonell to its Toledo headquarters, and he and his wife moved to Sylvania.

As Prestolite's group plant manager, he was responsible for operations at two regional factories and another pair in Canada.

He held the position until his retirement in the later half of the 1980s, after having spent 42 years with the company.

"He was a very precise person. He enjoyed being in charge," his son said. "To be able to run four different plant operations in four different parts of the [continent] was a big job."

Mr. MacDonell was an active member of Sylvania First United Methodist Church, serving on various committees and as its representative at regional church conferences.

His hobbies included traveling and golf, and he once scored a hole-in-one at the Spuyten Duyval golf course.

Surviving are his wife, Barbara MacDonell; daughters, Bonnie Butler and Karen MacDonell; son, Steve MacDonell; one grandson, and two great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be after 2 p.m. tomorrow at Walker Funeral Home, 5155 West Sylvania Ave. Services will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at Sylvania First United Methodist Church.

The family suggests tributes to Sylvania First United Methodist Church.



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