COOS BAY — The South Coast community lost a legend on Sunday, when former Marshfield track coach Richard "Mac" McIntosh died after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer.
McIntosh was a 1971 graduate, co-valedictorian and state champion for the Pirates before becoming an officer during a 30-year career as an Air Force pilot and then returning to the South Coast and leading the Marshfield track program for several years. He also was active in the Coos Bay-North Bend Rotary club.
Word of his death passed quickly through the community following his public battle with cancer that included coaching two final years with the Pirates, including leading Marshfield’s boys to the state title this spring.
When McIntosh was diagnosed, he was told that he had a 10 percent chance of living a year. He said then that the diagnosis meant he had another full season coaching Marshfield’s athletes.
That turned into two seasons, and McIntosh often was in pain from the progressing cancer this spring as he made his way to the track every day to work with the team.
That commitment and selfless attitude had a strong impression on new Marshfield football coach John Lemmons.
“He was a man of the highest respect, honor and integrity,” Lemmons said. “His commitment to excellence was far above par. His compassion, humility and decency was contagious.
“He was a great, great American who loved his country, his family, his community and loved coaching young people.”
McIntosh’s death was shared to the community early Sunday morning by his son, Rex.
“He spent the last month of his life surrounded by family and always with the steadfast support of his wife and partner of almost 50 years, Linnea,” Rex said, adding that McIntosh was grateful to be able to spend his final days in his home at Lakeside.
“He lived life according to a philosophy articulated by Vince Lombardi: ‘The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor,’” Rex said. “His life was rich as a result, filled with joy and the fulfillment of dreams for himself and those around him who he supported — whether as a father, a coach, an Air Force officer or a friend.
“His was a life well lived, and he leaves with no regrets. He leaves a hole in our hearts and we will greatly miss him.”
A celebration of life will be held in Coos Bay in the coming weeks, Rex said.
“The family is truly grateful for everyone’s prayers and support throughout this journey,” Rex said. “It has been hard, but is made easier knowing that we have such wonderful people around us — truly a testament to a great man’s impact on the world.”
MJ Golder, one of Marshfield’s assistant track coaches, praised McIntosh.
“Coach Mac was a dear friend and mentor for over five years,” she said. “He accepted every athlete and volunteer with amazing enthusiasm, finding a place for them in the program.
“He set a bar for each student-athlete, coach and himself. In doing so, he made people better people, coaches, students and athletes. Coach Mac embodied competing with class, living with integrity and is his own legacy among Marshfield’s elite.”
Golder cherished working with McIntosh and learning from him and spoke fondly of his tutoring her as she prepared to become Marshfield’s hurdles coach next spring.
“I will dearly miss him and his mentoring as I move forward navigating my coaching career,” she said. “But his unselfishness and constant thirst for learning has given me a great foundation.
“I visited the track today. It will never feel the same stepping on the track.”
One person intimately familiar with that track from his own days running from the Pirates and for many years helping at the finish line for Marshfield meets is Jay Farr, who said McIntosh quietly left a big lesson for everyone with how he handled his battle with cancer.
"Life is not always fair, but Mac left us his own legacy of how to deal with adversity," Farr said.
"Mac's last year coaching was amazing. Through all the treatments, the constant pain that was helped periodically with surgical nerve cutting, he carried on. The 4x400 relay race this year at state will rank up there as one of the greatest emotional triumphs I have ever witnessed. The only way it could have been better would have been if the team had broken our school record."
Marshfield clinched the state title with a victory in that meet-closing relay and the athletes said they had been competing for McIntosh, who announced to the team late in the season that it would be his final year coaching the group.
Lauren McGowne, one of many state champions coached by McIntosh at Marshfield, said he met her as "a scrawny 14-year-old" and helped her reach her potential.
"You gave me an opportunity to learn a new sport — to find endless challenges, success and passion," she wrote Sunday in an open letter to McIntosh on Facebook. "But you never gave up, just like with everything else you did.
“You taught me what it means to work day in and day out and to enjoy it. You made every practice my favorite memory. You always lived with integrity, competed with class and added to the legacy. I will never forget that. Rest easy, Coach. You will be greatly missed.”
McGowne went on to be a volleyball and track star at Southern Oregon University and is now in a Masters program working toward a teaching degree.
“Going into the profession of teaching and coaching, Mac truly taught me what it means to commit and believe in sudent-athletes,” she said.
McIntosh was co-valedictorian with Farr's younger sister, Janet, and remained a student throughout his life, constantly wanting to learn more about track and field and pass his knowledge on to the Marshfield athletes, Farr said.
"Mac threw his heart and soul into everything that he did," Farr said. "He successfully managed to fight the pancreatic cancer for over two years after diagnosis when most patients survive a few months. But then he was always in the top 1 percent.
"Not only did he fight the cancer, but more importantly, he lived life. He was a teacher in the tradition of Aristotle. He said he was privileged to be head track coach, and constantly strove to nurture his athletes in carrying forward the legacy of (Steve Prefontaine) and Coos Bay, in their lives and their careers. He was always positive in his approach to coaching and his approach to life."
Lemmons said McIntosh leaves a standard for Marshfield’s coaches to follow.
“His coaching of fundamentals was excellent, but what he taught young people about doing the right things all the time was superb,” Lemmons said. “My hope is we can carry on his ways and legacy, and help see that his final dream of getting Tribute Hall built, to honor veterans.”
McIntosh started pushing the project forward in the final years of his life. His goal was to commemorate every veteran associated with the Coos Bay School District in the building, which will be built adjacent to Prefontaine Track in Pete Susick Stadium.
Rex McIntosh said in lieu of flowers, the family urges people to make donations toward that project.