Walter Douglas Macneal, of Livonia, died on June 13 at Mount Nittany Medical Center. Though he was not a Livonia native, Doug’s ties to the area stretched over his entire life. Born in Baltimore on Oct. 2, 1932 to Fulton D. and Margaret E. Macneal, he started coming to Livonia as a boy, with his parents and sister, to vacation at Stover’s Hotel. As a child and young man he explored the woods, worked for local farmers and foresters, and formed powerful memories and love of the place.
After graduating from Baltimore City College H.S. and Harvard University, Doug spent a year in Germany on a Fulbright scholarship. It was on the ship traveling to Germany that he met Pat Miner, another Fulbright, whom he married on March 10, 1956. Drafted that same year, Doug served as a cryptographer in the U.S. 7th Army Signal Corps for two years, stationed in Stuttgart, Germany, together with his wife. After completing his military service Doug brought Pat to Livonia to live in a farmhouse his father had purchased as a summer place. They would remain in this house for the rest of their lives. The couple planted a garden, acquired goats and chickens, and eventually raised four children in Livonia. Every spring Doug tapped maple trees and boiled the sap for syrup, an activity that, as his sons grew older, expanded into a family business. He proudly watched his land become a productive farm run by his sons Andrew and Ben, and enjoyed working with them in the apple orchards as well as helping with maple sap collection.
Doug was a lifelong writer. He had majored in Classics at Harvard and went on to teach creative writing and humanities at Lock Haven University and then Penn State University. He wrote a weekend column about nature and rural life, “Brush Valley Notes,” for the Pennsylvania Mirror; wrote articles for and edited the Centre County Heritage, journal of the county historical society; wrote and helped produce pageants for the Penn's Valley Snow Frolics and the Centennial of the Centre County Grange Fair; and published several books, including A Penn's Creek Companion. His writing was informed by extensive research, and focused on understanding the place where he lived. He celebrated its natural and cultural history, seasonal rhythms, communities, and changes over time.
Doug shared his passions not just through writing but also service. For over 60 years he was a lay leader and choir member at St. Peter’s United Church of Christ in Rebersburg and was active in the UCC Northern Association and Penn Central Conference. His church work led to involvement with the Commission on Religion in Appalachia, where he worked as a consultant on economic development and social justice projects. He was lay chaplain for the Pennsylvania State Park Service at Poe Paddy and R.B. Winter parks. With Pat, he participated in several ecumenical exchange trips to Europe, organized by the UCC and the Evangelical Church of Germany. Doug supported public education, contributing time to the Penns Valley Area School District as a senior portraitist, playwright, and school board member.
Doug’s deep love of nature and the woods was expressed in many ways. He led nature walks, planted trees, served as a fire warden, and championed local environmental causes. In co-ordination with the Pennsylvania Senior Environmental Corps he helped form a team of stream-water monitors for the Penns Creek watershed, remaining active with this group for many years. He served on the board of the Penn's Valley Conservation Association, and published through their press.
Delight in creative endeavors was central to Doug’s character. He was a lifelong sketcher, drawing charcoal portraits and making illustrations of plants and trees for many of his nature articles. He was a gardener, a cheese maker, foraged the woods for mushrooms and berries, preserved jams and produce, and built a cruciform garage topped by a clerestory cupola. He was passionate about classical music. He enjoyed performing, sang with the Valley Choristers, and was a member of the State College Choral Society for 15 years. But perhaps his deepest enjoyment of music came from listening. During college Doug first became interested in musical analysis, and puzzled over the structure of J.S. Bach’s fugues. As he matured, so did his understanding of how the wordless language of music expresses emotional and spiritual truths. When Parkinson’s disease, with which Doug lived for the last six years of his life, cut short his performing activities he concentrated his love of music in listening deeply to the works of Beethoven. His last hour was soothed by hearing one of his favorite pieces, the Arietta of Beethoven’s piano sonata no.32 in C minor.
Doug was preceded in his death by his wife, Pat. He is survived by four children, Christopher D. Macneal (Alina) of Philadelphia, Alice Macneal Carli (Philip) of Rochester NY, Andrew D. Macneal (Myra Sletson), and Benjamin R. Macneal (Roxanne) both of Livonia; one sister, Margaret Macneal Albritton, of Winchester; VA; six grandchildren: Brittany, Jake, Mercury, Eliza, Ariana, and Renee; and two great-grandchildren, Kierstin and Raven. He was also preceded in death by one grandchild, Seth.
To his grandchildren who grew up in Livonia: “Grandpa was a wise and kind man and an amazing grandfather. He had a wide knowledge about plants, mushrooms, and other natural things. He taught us the names of trees, ferns, and flowers while we walked in the woods and we were always learning something new from him. He supported our writing and loved reading and discussing the stories or poems that we wrote. We enjoyed a variety of activities, from playing games on nice afternoons, to standing on the corner in Millheim to protest for peace. Doug adored Livonia and his family and we adored him. He will always be in our hearts.”
Doug will be laid to rest in the Livonia cemetery. A memorial service will be held at a future date, to be announced. In lieu of flowers, contributions in memory of Doug may be sent to:
Penn’s Valley Conservation Association
P.O. Box 165
Aaronsburg, PA 16820
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Penn's Valley Conservation Association
Po Box 165, Aaronsburg PA 16820