Don MacAulay, 79, track and field mainstay at meets and on the page

Don MacAulay.

Don MacAulay felt exhilarated in the 1950s when he ran for Commerce High School, competing in the relay in the annual Boston Athletic Association meet at Boston Garden against freshmen from other city high schools.

“I remember the thrill of running around that track with thousands of people cheering for me,” he told the Globe in 2011. “I think it was then I realized this was something I wanted to stay with.”

He did so in many ways. Mr. MacAulay was a popular teammate on the Northeastern University track team, head coach of Stoneham High School’s 1971 state Class C championship indoor and outdoor boys’ squads, a respected track official and pioneering inventor, and a chronicler of college and high school track as a Globe correspondent.


“Don was an inspiration to many,” said his friend Irwin Cohen, a Northeastern teammate and a former track coach and athletic director at the university. “As an athlete he always gave his best, and that’s what he was like as a coach, official, and writer — always striving for perfection.”

Get Fast Forward in your inbox:
A look at the news and events shaping the day ahead, delivered every weekday.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Mr. MacAulay, whose officiating assignments included the Boston Marathon, died March 19 from complications of liver disease while in hospice care at Bayfront Health in St. Petersburg, Fla. He was 79 and divided his time between Gulfport, Fla., and York, Maine.

“Don was part of the old guard of officials and timers who helped us organize the Boston Marathon for decades, and he helped make the event what it is today,” said Boston Athletic Association CEO Tom Grilk.

With longtime track official and coach Joe Abelon of Lynn, a former Northeastern teammate, Mr. MacAulay founded Ab-Mac Finish Line Systems. They devised a series of chutes that processed up to 300 runners per minute, faster than any previous manual system. The chutes, which runners funnel through at the end of the race, were used at the Boston Marathon before the advent of computer chips.

“We found a need and we filled it,” Mr. MacAulay told the Globe.


Abelon described him as “very motivated with a genuinely friendly demeanor, and a loyal friend.”

Chris Lane, a former Massachusetts Track & Field Officials Association president, said Mr. MacAulay’s keen eye judging the finish line was appreciated by meet officials and coaches. “Don was respected for his knowledge, how he conducted himself, and his objectivity,” Lane said.

Mr. MacAulay, who also was a past president of the association and a lifetime member, initiated the Globe’s track All-Scholastic selections in the early 1970s with help from a committee of area coaches.

For many years he worked on the Globe’s night sports copy desk, where his expertise and perfectly timed sense of humor endeared him to coworkers, who called him “Dino.”

Joe Tranchita, the girls’ track coach at Newton North High School, said Mr. MacAulay was a “friend of the sport” who was willing to help new officials and coaches.


Frank Mooney, executive director of the Massachusetts State Track Coaches Association, recalled that it was not uncommon for Mr. MacAulay to officiate at a meet and then jot down a few notes for his next Globe story.

After the Globe’s 1975 All-Scholastic team was published, the Rindge Tech track squad wrote a letter to the sports department commending Mr. MacAulay’s caring and his “superb knowledge, insight and hard work.”

In the 2011 Globe interview, Mr. MacAulay said officiating and writing were ways “of staying close to the sport. I got to enjoy the guys and girls more through the years, and it was more than just a job, it was a pleasure.”

Donald Campbell MacAulay was a son of Andrew C. MacAulay, who worked as a book binder at the Houghton Mifflin Co., and the former Margaret Fleming.

A student co-op at the Globe while attending Northeastern, Mr. MacAulay served in the Army after graduating in 1961. He subsequently coached at Stoneham High and worked for several years in public relations for the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health.

Mr. MacAulay was an avid Bruins fan who rooted with the legendary Gallery Gods — dozens of dedicated fans who used to sit together in the Boston Garden’s second balcony. He met Ann Murphy of Brockton after a Bruins-Rangers game. They married in 1980, and in 1991 they purchased the Faircrest Motel in York, which they operated until two years ago.

“I admired Don’s ability to tell a story, his honesty, and his hard work,” said his wife, who is Mr. MacAulay’s only immediate survivor. “At one time, he worked days for the state, nights at the Globe, and weekends at track meets.”

Mr. MacAulay was a past president of the Rotary Club in Ogunquit, Maine, and was a member of York’s 350th anniversary committee. He belonged to a group, dubbed the “over the hill gang,” that played golf Thursdays at Cape Neddick Country Club in York. He also was a starter at the Twin Brooks Golf Club in St. Petersburg, where a tree will be planted in his memory.

A memorial Mass will be said at 11 a.m. May 9 in St. Christopher by the Sea Church in York. A celebration of Mr. MacAulay’s life will follow at the York Harbor Inn.

Mr. MacAulay was given a special recognition award in 1983 at the Massachusetts State Track Coaches Association Hall of Fame ceremonies. In 2008, he was inducted into the Stoneham High Athletic Hall of Fame with his 1971 state championship teams.

“Don put a lot of trust in us,” said indoor team co-captain Bobby Daniels. “He would set up a daily individual training routine and expected us to follow it, and I can’t remember a teammate who didn’t improve his times.”

Daniels said Mr. MacAulay was so excited about Stoneham’s showing in the throws competition at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the week before the track portion of the 1971 state meet at Boston Garden, that he traveled back to Stoneham on the team bus – forgetting that he had parked his car at MIT.

The evening of the induction, Mr. MacAulay and his wife were seated with Daniels and his family. “He remarked that to him, we were still the same kids he coached nearly 40 years earlier,” Daniels recalled.

Ann said her husband treasured the Stoneham hall of fame plaque for the rest of his life.

Marvin Pave can be reached at