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Farewell to Bill MacKinnon

Posted: March 25, 2019 by David Bradley

On March 22nd, after a long illness and a brave fight, Bill MacKinnon, passed away at home as was his wish. The Mackinnon family has lost a dear husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. The trucking industry has lost one its greatest builders and one of its most respected leaders. Many of us lost a friend.

For parts of four decades, I was proud to count myself among Bill’s friends. He was a legend in the trucking industry long before I came on the scene. I recall being somewhat nervous meeting him for the first time. That probably would have been in 1985. I needn’t have worried. Bill’s gentle, joking manner – something I would come to appreciate and enjoy so much over the years — immediately put me at ease.

Bill’s humorous approach always contained much wisdom. So much so, that because of him I started an OTA “Quote of the Year” segment in my annual remarks to the OTA annual general meeting. Bill “won” the quote of the year so many times, I had to abandon it – but not for at least 20 years.

Bill did not speak often in our board meetings whether at OTA, or CTA. But, when he did, people listened. He was never aggressive or demanding. He just made a lot of sense – always. I can recall former Ontario Ministry of Transportation Deputy Minister, Harold Gilbert (another legend) telling me that Bill was his favourite OTA chairman. He said Bill would come in to see him, make his point and then close by saying “I’ll leave that with you.” Harold said he appreciated that. He knew his job and didn’t need to be told what or how to do it.

I’m going to miss Bill. Every time he called me, he would say, “it’s your old buddy, Bill MacKinnon from Guelph, Ontario calling” – as if I didn’t know. He would send me a birthday card every year and it would always include a pile of jokes clipped from who knows what newspaper or magazine. I would read all of them because I knew Bill had.

I remember one year at the OTA convention, Bill came up to me with tears in his eyes and said to me, “I am so proud of this association.” How could you not be inspired to work even harder for an industry that contained people like that?

Years ago, OTA published a book entitled the Golden Years of Trucking. Bill MacKinnon was one of those people who made our industry and who made it golden. His passing marks the end of an era. No one loved trucking more than Bill and his contemporaries. Bill was never happier than when he was chatting with his drivers. It took a serious illness to keep him away from the office.

No one had more fun than Bill and his fellow association members did. They competed – hard – but they developed friendships that would last a lifetime. They visited with each other. They shared the odd drink of Scotch. They never missed a convention. They and their wives travelled together. I’m not talking one or two couples. I’m talking about 30-40 people at a time. (I could tell you some stories).

The days of the family trucking business may not be over, but it’s getting tougher. As the years pass, so too do so many of the people and companies with family names that were synonymous with trucking. But, their legacy should not and will not be forgotten.

My deepest condolences to Bill’s loving wife, Lois, and the entire MacKinnon family. Rest in peace, my friend.

  • David Bradley is the former President of the Ontario Trucking Association and Canadian Trucking Alliance-
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