John McKenzie “Mac“ Dunstan passed away June 25, 2023, at his home in Mazama after several years toughing it out against pancreatic cancer. Mac was born on May 5, 1944, to John and Gwen (Reams) Dunstan in Seattle. After his parents divorced, he and his younger half-sister were largely raised by his single mother under difficult circumstances. He attended North Seattle public schools including Bryant, Eckstein and Roosevelt High, where he graduated in 1962. Mac enlisted in the Navy right after high school, serving on an icebreaker in the Arctic as a radio technician. He didn’t take to military life, finding he didn’t enjoy arbitrary orders and actions from officers he didn’t respect.
After his enlistment ended and following a series of bartending jobs, Mac began taking classes at Seattle Community College in 1966, the year it was established. He discovered he loved college, and moved on to the University of Washington, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1971. He then pursued but didn’t complete a master’s degree in European History and Economics at Indiana University, in Bloomington, Indiana. The community and landscape weren’t a good fit for Mac and his then wife, so they moved back to Seattle, where he continued his education at the School of Urban Planning at the University of Washington, completing the master’s program in 1974. His love of studying and wide interests prompted him to begin law school at the UW the next year. Through his studies, Mac developed a deep understanding and lifetime interest in history, economics, world events and news.
Mac was always active and athletic but given his unstable home life he didn’t know how to get involved with the organized sports offered to boys in the 1950s. However, in elementary school he began his own weight exercises to increase his strength and give him the ability to protect his mother from his abusive stepfather. By college he was competing in Olympic weightlifting, managing a gym in Seattle’s University District on the “Ave,” and in 1970 set a state record in the clean and jerk for the 165-pound weight class. Alpine skiing in college also kindled a lifelong passion for the outdoors, and Mac hiked, backpacked, and climbed all over the Cascades and Olympic mountains.
Mac was forced to take a break from law school when his marriage ended, and he started bartending at the College Inn Pub in the University District. There, in 1976, he got to know his future wife, Linda Grob. For the next eight years he tried out various hobbies as careers — pub co-owner, mountaineering store owner, ski buyer — before finally deciding at age 40 to get serious and figure out what he wanted to do with his life. He liked talking to people and personal finance interested him, so he learned the trade and launched his career as an investment adviser in Seattle, ultimately starting two investment firms. His final and favorite firm, Lakeview Financial Group, was established with all-female partners in 2006. In 2018, as Lakeview was being purchased by a larger firm, he retired but continued to work as a consultant to the new company.
One day while alpine skiing, Mac saw his first telemark skier make wide, graceful turns from the chairlift, and he switched to backcountry skiing. Within a year of meeting, both Mac and Linda became hooked on Nordic skiing on the groomed trails that were available at the time. They discovered and fell hard for the Methow Valley, thanks to seeing Don Portman and Eric Sandford’s slide show in 1979 that promoted skiing in the valley. They made their first trip to the valley in 1980 where they explored its developing winter trail system. The Methow became a home away from home for Mac and Linda, and it’s where they formalized their commitment to each other. In 1991, they were married by John Sunderland at the Duck Brand restaurant over beer and apple pie. An old Edelweiss A-frame cabin became theirs in 1994 and they were devoted visitors every weekend until retirement would allow them to live here full time. In 2005 they built what they thought was their forever home on the adjoining lot.
Mac’s passion for all things Nordic skiing deepened over the decades. He and Linda made their first trip to Norway to ski the Birkebeiner race in 2001. Though they didn’t expect it at the time, they developed a deep affection for Norway, where they returned every year in March to stay at the Rustad Hotel in Sjusjøen. There, they skied to their hearts’ content and developed lasting friendships with visitors from Europe. Between the two of them they completed 20 Norwegian Birkebeiner races, until they realized it was more fun to skip the race and instead spend the whole trip exploring the area’s hundreds of kilometers of beautiful trails.
Mac also became a devoted fan of the Methow Valley Nordic Team. He and Linda supported the organization financially, but moreover, they became champions of the junior skiers, getting to know them, watching them grow up and move on into their adult lives. Twice, in 2018 and 2022, they co-sponsored, along with Gil and Berit Lund, trips to Sjusjøen and Oslo, Norway, for the most-promising junior skiers so they could gain valuable experience in international travel and competition.
Life for Mac and Linda was upended in June 2019 when he was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. The couple had already bought a flat lot on the ski trail in Mazama and had broken ground on a new one-story home, and it became Mac’s hope that he would live long enough to enjoy it. Their home was finished in January 2020 and two months later Mac was able to make his final trip to Norway. His enthusiasm for skiing never waned, despite the fatigue and difficulty of his cancer treatments. He was able to ski dozens of times in 2022 and always enjoyed watching skiers pass by his home, especially members of the Methow Nordic Team.
By March of this year Mac was considerably worn out, and he decided to take advantage of Washington’s Death with Dignity Act, which allows medical aid-in-dying. After securing the necessary drugs so he could make an end-of-life decision if he elected to do so, Mac decided to forgo taking them so he could watch spring come to life in his new front garden and lawn. He received his final treatment at Virginia Mason in mid-April and lived long enough to see the first blooms in the garden.
Mac’s many friends remember him for his “glass-full” optimism, his indomitable spirit and steadfast commitment to anything he did. He was never too busy to stop to say hello and chat with friends and neighbors. He was supportive and encouraging to others in the pursuit of their own goals. Nordic skiing brought him immeasurable and infectious joy, and he willingly shared his knowledge and passion for the sport with a deep generosity that influenced many, especially the young skiers of the Methow Nordic Team.
Mac Dunstan is survived by his wife, Linda Grob, sister-in-law Kathy Brittain, nephew Ross Brittain (Alla) and grandnephew Winston, niece Kirby Brittain (Johnny Duong), and the best German Shepherd nurse ever, Evi. He was preceded in death by his parents, and lost contact with his half-sister when she cut off her relationship with the family.
Linda would like to thank Dr. Vincent Picozzi and the excellent nursing staff at Virginia Mason’s Pancreatic Care Center for helping keep Mac alive one day shy of the four-year anniversary of his diagnosis. Erik and Julie Lund were extremely generous in donating the use of their Mercer Island apartment for the duration of Mac’s treatment. Betsy Weiss and Loretta Bell, End of Life Washington volunteers, offered comfort and advice in the absence of hospice assistance to the very end, and Aero Methow Rescue Service helped Mac when he fell at home the week before he died. Delene Monetta expedited the property transactions that allowed Mac to dream of and live in his new home. Margo Peterson and Tom Bjornsen respectively designed and built the ideal house, and the Methow Nordic Team juniors helped Mac and Linda move in. Many friends and neighbors in the valley kept Mac’s spirits up by providing meals and companionship in the last few months of his life, and his wonderful business partners and colleagues were in loving contact to the very end.
A party celebrating Mac’s life will be held later. Donations in memory of Mac’s spirit and deep enthusiasm and love for the Methow Valley can be made to the Methow Valley Nordic Team and the Methow Conservancy.