Saying goodbye to a good one

Scott McLean was my friend and my boss. He passed away following a brief struggle with brain cancer, and his wife asked me to write the obituary. This was an honor, but it also gave me a sense of closure.

Published in The News & Observer from Oct. 19 to Oct. 26, 2014

Scott McLean, Jr.
October 18, 1949 – October 15, 2014
Chapel Hill

Battle Park is a little quieter now that Scott McLean is no longer parading through the woods with a passel of dogs and stumbling upon such miracles as ambulatory boulders. On October 15, just as an hours-long rainstorm ended and the sun came out, Scotty passed away peacefully at his home. He was surrounded by loved ones who had remained by his side since a diagnosis of glioblastoma multiforme in September.

Scotty is survived by his beloved wife Mari McLean and their children Katherine and Luke McLean; his son Lachlan “Jake” McLean, Jake’s wife Shawna McLean, and their children Nina Flack and Connor McLean. He was the son of the late Scott McLean, Sr. and Shirley McLean, who survives.

He also held dear his sisters Heather Crotts and the late Laurie Deemer; nephews Peter Deemer, Andrew Deemer, Aaron Deemer, and Michael Barnett; Joanie McLean, the late Nancy Pruden, and countless friends.

His faithful canine companions, Buddy, Rachel, Clotilde, and Spud miss their master. They understand, as the rest of us do, that wherever Scotty is now, those folks are sure in for a treat.

Born in Wisconsin, Scotty moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky, as a young boy. He attended The McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee, before enrolling in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He liked to say that the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area is the best place to live on the planet—the people are exemplary, and nearly every individual you see on the street could, and should, be a good, good friend of yours.

Scotty could drop you to your knees with his pasta puttanesca, clam sauce, pimento cheese, and kimchi. Really, anything he cooked. And the more garlic, the better. He liked his wine red, stinky, and perhaps even a little bit chewy.

Impressively fearless, reassuringly nonjudgmental, and effortlessly accommodating, Scotty was the host with the most. His pumpkin-carving bonfires and build-yer-own boat and bathtub races were legendary, his July 4th parades full of one-of-a-kind spirit and infectious joy.

No one could tell a story like Scott McLean. He kept four or five cats, six or seven dogs, a whole mess of bees, an old beach house, and a 1968 Dodge Dart convertible with over 500,000 miles. His favorite spot was in a chair, reading to a child.

Scotty was a general contractor and partner at McLean Building Company, which he founded in 1979. At work, he liked to say that he welcomed the challenge and satisfaction of completing a difficult project while maintaining great relationships with all clients and workers. While this is true, he also just really, really, really liked to swing a hammer in the sunshine.

Scotty never wasted a moment of his one wild and precious life. Shortly before becoming ill, he wrote these words to an old friend: “I pray and commune with the overseer of goodness and light and love, which I conceive of as my god, every moment I breathe and move across this planet.” He lived with a deep sense of wonder and few regrets. He died with grace and peace.

There will be a celebration of his life well-lived on Monday, October 27, at 11 a.m. at Forest Theater. It will be led by Reverend Carolyn R. Craft and followed by a reception at Crook’s Corner. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation in Scotty’s memory to the Battle Park Endowment through the North Carolina Botanical Garden.

Scotty will be missed as a husband, father, son, brother, grandfather, uncle and friend. Join us in remembering that he is not dead. He is alive within us all.


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