|12/17/2020 4:40:00 PM|
Memories of Mac Horton, Englewood's Great Friend
Mac as Santa Claus on Dearborn Street.
Mac (2nd from left) with Rotary buddies l-r: Bill Burdick, Joe Ameling and Eric Fogo.
Sharyn LonsdaleFor decades, Mac Horton was inarguably Englewood’s greatest champion and one of the area’s most important and effective movers and shakers. Mac passed away on December 4 of COVID-19 at the age of 79. His health had deteriorated in recent years and he was in an assisted living facility when he contracted the virus.
A devoted civil servant, Mac served on the Englewood Water District Board, Charlotte County School Board and as a Charlotte County Commissioner. He last held public office in 2008, when his term as Supervisor of Elections ended. A resident of Englewood for more than 60 years, he was a founding member of the Englewood Jaycees and Lemon Bay Sunrise Rotary.
Known for his folksy and straight-shooting style, Mac was a tireless advocate for Englewood whose legacy was assured long before his recent passing. The Winchester Boulevard Extension hurricane evacuation route, opened in 2015, is named for him, as is the West County Annex government building on San Casa Drive.
Mac’s wife of 51 years Esther Horton said she would like people to remember Mac most for how deeply he cared about the issues he championed. “It wasn’t about politics. It was about getting the job done in a way that benefited the people and the county,” she said. That could mean fighting to preserve a historic building or a park, or grilling food donated by restaurants during Hurricane Charley to feed people affected by that devastating storm.
It seems like almost everyone who is anyone in Englewood has a memory of Mac. We’d like to share some of those with you now.
When our granddaughter Addison was about seven-years-old, we took her to our Georgia home and she wanted to go fishing with “Papa Mac.” Mac always went fishing with his brother Sonny who told him, “Girls don’t go fishing.” Mac said, “Mine does.” They took her fishing and she caught fish after fish after fish. She’s 26 now and she still goes fishing.
– Esther Horton
Probably not many people know that Mac could not swim. Now there were some fishing excursions that were not on the big water, but instead in a canoe on a canal. One time I hooked into a pretty good-size fish that kind of pulled us around. While trying to hoist it into the boat I was leaning over and Mac decided to look as well and the canoe stared to flip. Mac immediately leaned back, but I just gave up and jumped into the water so Mac would be OK. I’m still hanging on to the rod and fish, but I started to think about a possible gator. So, I started to swim to the canoe and Mac says “NO WAY!! Head to shore I’ll pick you up there.” I was swimming as fast as I could. I lost the damn snook, but didn’t get eaten by a gator
– Fred Beck
(Another story from Fred)
One evening Mac and Esther came out to our house on the Myakka River for dinner. After having a few cocktails and a great feast, I invited Mac to the back-fishing pad, which is right on the river, to see if we could catch a snook. We were casting for about a half hour when Mac says he has hooked the granddaddy of a snook. I’m watching him working the rod and reel but not really gaining much headway. The 41 bridge and the Myakka River Oyster Bar are just up from my home, so there is some light out on the river to the northwest. As I’m looking out over the water, I see a gator moving in the direction of the fishing line. Yep, you guessed it, he had snagged a gator. He asked me what to do. I said, keep trying to bring him closer so I can save my line and lure! Mac asked, “REALLY!” He finally got the gator within 20 feet, so at Mac’s request we cut him loose.
Mac has always been a mentor and inspiration to me, ever since I was a young boy going into his butcher shop with my mom or grandma. I would play in the sawdust on his shop floor. When I was in Boy Scouts and earned the rank of Eagle Scout, it was Mac who encouraged me to consider running for office when I was an adult. Mac inspired me to run for Charlotte County Development Authority, which is now the Punta Gorda/Charlotte Airport Authority. Mac was going to seek another elected county office, and he wanted me to be his successor for his seat on the Charlotte County School Board. It was Mac’s support and endorsement that helped me win the seat. I was honored to have his and Esther’s support, since they both had known me since nursery school back in 1967. I tried to always keep Mac’s advice as my guide, and his advice was to just be yourself. He told me many times that he was proud of me that I was following in his footsteps, and that means so much to me. I know my succors Andrea Messina and our current school board member Bob Segur, have been influenced by Mac, a true Southern gentleman. We will all miss you ol’ buddy. Ya did good for our entire community. We will miss you, but we will forever cherish your wonderful stories, your passion for children, your grace and your sprit. So long my friend.
– David Dignam
A Friend to all
Some 38 years ago when Nicole was a young child and Justin and Alec were not even born, we were relatively poor. Mac and Esther gave us a commercial swing set that was probably 20 years old. We still have that swing set, and it’s now being used by a fourth generation of children. I have other fond memories of Mac and camping out at the Rotary Campground on the Myakka River. Mac would set a trout line baited with shrimp for catfish and we would eat large.
– Bill Stiver
I have so many fond memories of Mac and all he did, and that has become a part of my main consensus. If you got to know Mac, he became a part of your life! He was more than a friend;
he treated you like family.
He truly was a good man we all can strive to become.
– Keith Rowley
Mac and I got to be pottery buddies. After working together at The Open Studio, Mac asked me to teach him some additional skills and I was happy to do that. Mac and I shared our love of sea life and tropical style. We made mermaids, bowls with turtles, starfish wall hangings and much more. Soon he felt confident in his skills, so we went shopping at a local supplier and online. Mac put together a home pottery studio any artist would love to have! His pottery will live on and will always be the special bond we shared.
– Michelle McCarthy
Mac and Esther made it to my surprise 40th birthday party (a few years ago). When the DJ played “Rocky Top,” Mac was the first, and only one on the dance floor giving a clogging demonstration…at least I think it was clogging. Nonetheless, he truly enjoyed himself as did everyone who watched. I also have fond memories of Mac sharing stories around a campfire at the 40 Acres. Like everyone who knew him, all of the memories bring a smile.
– Jim Harrison
Also Known as Santa
Some of my fondest memories of Mac came during the Christmas season on Dearborn Street with Mac as “Santa.” Mrs. Clause, also known as Esther, created a beautiful quilted jacket to keep Santa warm. Santa would arrive on his red “fire engine” sleigh and spend hours talking and gifting. He never tired of his mission to make the tots happy! Yes, we will miss him!
– Janet Landis
I was working as a writer for the Herald-Tribune and knew Mac as a public official. I got an assignment to cover Christmas on Dearborn Street and of course had to interview Santa. I looked at Santa’s face and thought, “That’s Mac Horton, the County Commissioner! I was surprised to see someone so high up in local politics, listening to the Christmas wishes of child after child. As the years went by and I got to see Mac more in the community, it made total sense that he would be Santa.
– Sharyn Lonsdale
A Man of Faith
Mac Horton was a faithful member of Englewood United Methodist Church. He put into action his faith by serving people in need and the community at large. In doing so, he personified our church’s ethos, “A Servant Church, “and made visible a vibrant faith in his God. He will be sorely missed.
– Rev. Vic Willis
One of Mac’s favorite songs was “I’ll Fly Away,” said Esther Horton. “And I feel that he has flown away. I believe that he’s having barbecued ribs with his son and daughter or fishing with his big brother. I am happy for him. We are spiritual people. He has gone to a better place.
– Esther Horton
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