William MacCrellish Jr., 91, of Wellesley; attentive attorney

William MacCrellish Jr. was a Wellesley attorney for decades.
William MacCrellish Jr. was a Wellesley attorney for decades.

Even on weekends William MacCrellish Jr. wore neckties, a nod to a career that seemed ever present.

“He could never relax,” said his son Bruce of South Woodstock, Vt. “His mind was always going a mile a minute.”

A corporate attorney who was a trusted adviser and friend to many clients, Mr. MacCrellish “strategized in business not just as a lawyer, but in big-picture family dynamics,” said Tom Jalkut, a longtime friend and colleague who added: “That’s what we all aspire to. He got tremendous satisfaction from being able to help them.”


Mr. MacCrellish offered advice on everything from whether a couple should sign a prenuptial agreement to where a family should live, to where parents could send children to school.

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Mr. MacCrellish, who kept working long past when most settle into retirement, died of heart failure Aug. 7 in The Falls at Cordingly Dam senior living center in Newton. He was 91 and had lived in Wellesley for decades.

At 70 and thinking he might soon retire, Mr. MacCrellish and others at Boyd, MacCrellish & Wheeler joined Nutter McClennen & Fish, the firm that had hired him out of law school. He kept working well into his 80s.

“He was always going to retire in another two years,” Jalkut said.

Part of the impetus for staying at work came from Mr. MacCrellish’s curiosity about people and their backgrounds, Jalkut said.


While Jalkut was keeping to himself on plane trips, Mr. MacCrellish engaged passengers in conversation and learned about them. Although at 6 feet 4 inches tall he was a “large imposing figure with a deep voice and a loud voice, he would wrest information from people that they didn’t often realize they were giving him,” Jalkut said.

“Wherever we went, people remembered Bill,” Jalkut said. “It was really an interesting dynamic because we traveled a lot.”

One of Mr. MacCrellish’s clients was Shipley Co., which he represented from soon after it was founded in the Newton basement of Lucia and Charles Shipley in 1957 until the family sold the business. The company, which developed chemicals used to make computer chips and other products, grew to about 1,000 employees, said Richard Shipley of Florida, who succeeded his parents as president of the company.

Shipley said Mr. MacCrellish was “always more than family counsel and corporate counsel. He was a family friend. Bill was 100 percent trustworthy. He just cared about anybody and everybody in the family.”

One reason Mr. MacCrellish cared so much about the companies he represented was that he “always believed that American ingenuity and American innovation could create jobs and change the world,” his son Bruce said.


The older of two siblings, William H. MacCrellish Jr. was born in Cincinnati. His mother was from an prominent New Jersey family and his father was a “public school boy who got into Princeton,” Bruce said.

‘He got tremendous satisfaction from being able to help [clients].’

Mr. MacCrellish also went to Princeton University.

During college, Mr. MacCrellish enlisted in the Army and served with the 104th Infantry Division as a machine gunner. The division fought for months near the end of World War II. Mr. MacCrellish was badly injured by a German mortar shell, and he was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, his family said.

Still, when Mr. MacCrellish spoke about World War II in later years, he often talked about Robert McCaslin, a friend from high school with whom he enlisted. A pilot, McCaslin died during a bombing mission over Romania, Mr. MacCrellish’s son said.

Never forgetting his friend, Mr. MacCrellish donated his own collection of World War II books to a Cincinnati school in McCaslin’s name. “He must have mentioned him hundreds of times,” Bruce said.

Returning to Princeton, Mr. MacCrellish graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1946 and then spent a year in Greece with the Allied Mission to observe elections, his family said.

After graduating from Harvard Law School, he started his law career at Nutter McClennen & Fish.

Around that time he met Sheila Moore at a gathering in Wellesley, where his parents had moved during the war.

“He thought he made a great impression,” his son said, but when Mr. MacCrellish ran into her the next day, “she said, ‘Of course I remember you. It was great to have met you, Fred.’ ”

They married in the Wellesley Hills Congregational Church and settled in Wellesley, where they raised their five children. Mrs. MacCrellish died in 1995.

A couple of years later, Mr. MacCrellish met Ann Keleher, who his son said brought a lot of joy to his life.

Mr. MacCrellish was married for 12 years to Keleher, who died in 2011.

A service has been held for Mr. MacCrellish, who in addition to his son Bruce leaves a daughter, Sarah of Bolton; three other sons, David of Sandwich, N.H., Stuart of New Haven, Vt., and John of Siesta Key, Fla.; and three grandchildren.

A library trustee in Wellesley, Mr. MacCrellish also was a member of the Longwood Cricket Club, the Wellesley Country Club, the Harvard Club of Boston, and the Princeton Club of New York. His socializing knew few boundaries.

His granddaughter Megan MacCrellish Walton of Seattle recalled a night several years ago when in the middle of dinner at a hotel, Mr. MacCrellish decided to check out a wedding reception down the hall.

“He didn’t know the bride, he didn’t know the groom,” she said. “That didn’t stop him from going up and introducing his granddaughter and asking if we could have a few dances on the dance floor. He was always looking for ways to connect with other people.”

Alli Knothe can be reached at