Hall of Famer Don MacLaren Passes at Age 75

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Donald F. MacLaren, age 75, a longtime Tewksbury businessman and Hall of Fame driver, died Wednesday, January 12, at Lowell General Hospital following a brief illness. He was the fiancÚ of Lorraine Reiss-Campbell, with whom they had planned a spring wedding.

He was born in Tewksbury, May 19, 1935, a son of the late George and Myrtle (Flint) MacLaren. He lived in Tewksbury for most of his life. During the Korean War, he enlisted into the U.S. Army. He was a member of the Tewksbury- Wilmington Elks Lodge 2070, American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars. He founded and continued to operate 5 D's Welding Company in Tewksbury.

Don's passion was stock cars, specifically the super modified class stock car. He built and drove dozens of them during his long history of racing. He earned numerous titles and championships during his racing career, highlighted by his induction into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2002.

He is survived by four children, Donald W. MacLaren and his wife Linda (Kirkland) of Tewksbury, Douglas MacLaren and his wife Gisele (Boucher) of Dracut, Daren MacLaren and his wife Ellen (Herlihy) of Londonderry, NH, Bonnie Capuano and her husband Michael of Tewksbury; nine grandchildren, Donald R. MacLaren and Jennifer Kelley both of Tewksbury, Jonathan MacLaren and Renee MacLaren both of Dracut, Kayla MacLaren of Londonderry, NH, Michael Capuano of Dracut, Kimberly Capuano, USAF, currently stationed in Augusta, GA, Kerri Capuano of Tewksbury, and Adam Silva of Townsend; two great grandchildren, Quentin and Aidan; three sisters, Beverly Beckwith of Durham, ME, Priscilla Blumenstock of Dalton Gardens, ID, and Louise Dlugolenski of Apopka, FL; and numerous nieces, nephews, and racing friends both locally and across the Eastern Seaboard of the US.

He was also father of the late Dennis MacLaren; and brother of the late Philip, Lloyd, George, Willa Wolcott, and Pauline McClendon.

Visiting hours Monday 4 to 8 p.m. in the funeral home. His funeral service will be held Tuesday, Jan. 18, at 10:00a.m. at the funeral home followed by burial with Army Honors at Pine Ridge Cemetery, Chelmsford. In lieu of flowers, memorials to The American Heart Association, 20 Speen st., Framingham, MA 01701 will be appreciated. www.tewksburyfuneralhome.com

Biography from NEAR Website
Don MacLaren drove his first race on his 15th birthday, driving a homebuilt supermodified, a Willys Coupe with a Ford engine. Telling officials at the Norwood Arena he was 18 years old, MacLaren went out and won the first heat he ever drove.
 
From Canada to Florida, Don has won well over 500 races. His 1st big win came at Oswego, driving the Tewksbury Auto Parts "Flying 5". Today, MacLaren says no one win, or one championship, stands out. "Each week was exciting as hell", says the gentle giant affectionately known as "Big Daddy". "Each feature win was exciting, each championship a battle. You took your car home, worked on it, slept with it, and worked on it some more. If you worked hard enough, you'd win."

Dick Berggren remembers one classic NESRA season opener at Thompson. "Ollie (Silva) and Don (MacLaren) were racing side by side with three laps to go. Ollie was the classic hero, and, in the eyes of the crowd, MacLaren was the classic villain. Three laps they ran side by side, with neither driver giving an inch. They took the white flag, and both drove deep into the turn, with neither driver lifting. Big Daddy was on the inside, Ollie on the outside, and both drove in too deep. They never touched, but both cars spun at the same time, with Eddie West coming through to take the win." Don grinned after hearing the story retold. "Ollie and I would start dead last every week, and battle our way through the pack. That's what made it exciting. That's what made it fun", says Don.

Don was a fierce competitor on the track, but a gentleman once the racecar was parked. Berggren remembers Ollie and Sue Silva's wedding day. "Sue was sooooo worried to learn that MacLaren was coming to the wedding. 'What would he do?', Sue wondered. Would there be a fist fight? Would he drive a car through the reception hall? What would happen? Well, Don showed up". Dick continued. "He was a perfect gentleman."