William Jay McDonnal passed away on January 2, 2018, at the age of 90 years. Bill suffered a stroke on Christmas morning and spent the last days of his life surrounded by his family at Stanford Medical Center.
Bill is lovingly remembered by his wife Marianne Michele (Rackleff) of 67 years and by his four children and their families: Mick and his wife Huijun Yan and his children Grant and Evan; Jack and his children Patrick, Matthew, Katie, and Bailey; Sheila and her husband Jim Drohman; and Doug and his wife Lisa St George and their children Adrian and Sophie. He is lovingly remembered also by his sister Maribel (Cadmus) and brother Fred; he is predeceased by his brother Joe.
Bill was born on June 9, 1927, in Mancos, Colorado to William Joseph and Flora Kathleen (Humiston). His family moved to Oregon, and he attended Oregon State University and Willamette University after serving in the United States Navy late in World War II. He joined Sigma Nu fraternity in college and remained a contributor throughout his life.
His illustrious career with IBM spanned 37 years and included assignments in Portland, Spokane, New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Jose, and Boeblingen, West Germany. He first excelled as a sales manager and later as a district sales executive, then became head of IBM’s Global Direct Access Storage Business. When IBM’s engineering design for BART’s fare collection system stumbled, he was tapped to rescue both the complex project and IBM’s reputation; he succeeded at both. He was then recruited to lead the engineering team at ROLM, IBM’s telecom acquisition, where he successfully developed a novel private communication system offering.
In his retirement, Bill delved into his family’s genealogical history. He was an avid volunteer for Friends of the Saratoga Libraries where he served as membership chairman, president, and led the successful drive to pass a bond measure that funded the construction of the new library. He loved watching the three-time World Series champions San Francisco Giants, playing bridge, and doing crossword puzzles. To his family and friends, Bill was famous (and well appreciated) for his uncompromising excellence at grilling.
Bill and Marianne were blessed with the kind of marriage that people wish for; they were fortunate enough to enjoy traveling across much of the world well into their 80s, and they especially loved their vacations in Hawaii. They moved to Saratoga in 1970 and (with the exception of several years in West Germany during the early 1980s) lived there until relocating to Los Altos in 2005.
An intimate celebration of Bill’s life will be held for close family in February.
Donations in Bill’s memory may be made to Friends of the Saratoga Libraries at: http://www.fslonline.org/files/FSLmemorialgift.pdf