The Final Journey
George MacLeod, husband, father, Silicon Valley pioneer, Sonoma Valley grape grower, winery owner, and author of the popular Kenwood Press column, “Journey to Harvest,” passed away peacefully at home following complications from the flu on January 21, 2018 at the age 96-1/2 years. George lived a full life and was truly grateful for all his many blessings, including his wife of 69 years, Greta Fisher MacLeod.
Born in San Francisco on June 20, 1921, George spent his early years in Texas until his mother, Olive Marshall, moved the small family to join her parents in Palo Alto, CA in 1930. The oldest of four children, George shouldered the “man-of-the-house” role at an early age when his father abandoned the family in the depths of the Great Depression. Despite their poverty, the young Marshall-MacLeod family worked together to survive and eventually produce four college graduates. The work-ethic and optimism that was the hallmark of George’s character was imprinted on him by his mother during those early years. George was proud to say that he never “slept in” a single day of his life!
After graduating from Palo Alto High School, George began a life-long love affair with Stanford University. He began his academic journey in “Bonehead English” where the teacher exclaimed that he was the first student not to know how to spell Stanford (he spelled it, “Standford”!) He went on to study geology while working as a hasher, playground director, ROTC student, policeman and janitor. He entered Officer’s Candidate School, then the U.S. Army, rising to the rank of Captain where he served in New Guinea during World War II.
Following the war, he returned to Stanford, earning a MS in Geophysics, and more importantly, met, fell in love with, and married the beautiful and talented (and only) woman in his geology lab, Ann Margaret “Greta” Fisher.
George began his career working for Standard Oil doing exploration work in the Gulf of Mexico, finding significant oil fields that are still being pumped. However, Greta was homesick and New Orleans couldn’t match the loveliness of the San Francisco Peninsula, so home to California they came. Settling in what was then the wilderness of Los Altos Hills, George and Greta’s family grew to include four children, rabbits, dogs, cats, ducks, chickens, bees, and even an un-rideable pony named Star.
George built his career around the early electronics industry in Palo Alto, first working for Fisher Research Laboratories, and then moving on to the early manufacturer of silicon wafers, Knapic Electrophysics. George joined Monsanto in 1961 where his team of engineers and marketers developed and introduced the world to the emerging Light-Emitting Diode (LED) technologies. Monsanto took the family to St. Louis, Missouri for several years before returning to Silicon Valley in 1968. By the mid 1970’s, George was able to parlay his success at Monsanto into an early retirement and begin yet another career, this time as a grape grower.
The hand of God had to be at work as it led George and Greta to 50 rocky hillside acres overlooking Kenwood. His ranch would become the third great love of his life. In 1974, they purchased the land, which became Indian Springs Ranch. George loved to stop at the beginning of his driveway, look down the long avenue of overhanging oak trees and whisper to his mother, “Mom, it’s not Tara, but it’s close enough.”
George contributed his boundless energy to his adopted industry; he helped write the constitution for the Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance and was elected its first president. In August 2015, George was the first to be honored by his peers by being inducted into the Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance Hall of Fame.
In 2005, George began his final career, that of winery owner. With the help of his children, MacLeod Family Vineyard wines were created from Indian Springs Ranch grapes and made available to loyal and dedicated wine association members, local restaurants and stores.
George, a life-long Democrat, never gave up his belief in the liberal agenda. He lived with great integrity, optimism and generosity. Along the way he reached out and helped many people improve their lives. He will be remembered as a loyal friend, wonderful father and husband, and upstanding citizen. He came to understand that the terroir required for growing great grapes is the same as the terroir for a happy life …love and affection.
George is survived by his wife, Greta, four children, Richard (Gail), Noel (Steve), Susan (Ed) and John (Marjorie), seven grandchildren (Scott, Jacob, Ben, Emma, Skyler, Evan and Helen), five great-grandchildren (Collin, Kaitlyn, Marshall, Jackson and Noah), 16,500 grapevines and 1,339 cases of MacLeod Family Vineyard wine.
Private family services will be held at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Kenwood. A Celebration of Life will be planned with the community at a later date.
Donations in George’s memory may be made to:
La Luz Center
17560 Greger Street
Sonoma, CA 95476
501(c)(3) Nonprofit Organization
Tax ID #68-0228235