Local youth sports mentor John McDonald dies at 87

Those who knew John McDonald called him “Mr. Mac” or “Pops” because he treated everyone equally, his son said Saturday.

Whether it was former President Bill Clinton or one of the neighborhood children he mentored through sports, McDonald had a way of connecting with people no matter who they were.

“His outlook on life was always positive,” said his son Michael McDonald, chairman of Nevada’s Republican Party. “He always had that defining smile.”

John McDonald died Wednesday after a bout of pneumonia. He was 87.

He grew up in Butte, Mont., and moved to Las Vegas in 1960. He worked in several casinos as a card dealer and moved up the ranks to casino manager. He retired in 1990.

But his legacy might be as a man who worked with at-risk children in several sports including baseball and football.

Michael McDonald said that in the neighborhood where he grew up, near Decatur Boulevard and Washington Avenue, children who were cut from the Pop Warner football team would seek guidance from his father.

John McDonald would teach the children the sport’s fundamentals. The following year, the children would make the team.

“He used sports to steer at-risk children away from crime,” McDonald said. “He would teach them focus, and to build teamwork and leadership.”

In January 2012, his work with children was recognized when the John J. McDonald Football Complex at All American Park, 1151 S. Buffalo Drive, was named after “Mr. Mac.”

Michael McDonald said his father was a Democrat who worked on many political campaigns.

Their differing political views made for interesting dinner conversations right up to the latest presidential campaign. But father and son kept their disagreements civil, McDonald said.

John McDonald is survived by two daughters, his son, his fiancée, two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife of 61 years, Doris.

A memorial for McDonald will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday at Palm Mortuary, 1325 N. Main St., followed by a prayer service from 6 to 7 p.m.

The funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at St. Francis De Sales, 1111 N. Michael Way.

Contact reporter Antonio Planas at aplanas@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4638.