The brave do not live forever, the cautious not at all. In Bend, Ore., Norm MacLeod, 83, left this world July 10, 2013, no doubt looking for another mountain to ski. The MacLeod Clan’s motto is “Hold Fast,” but cancer held faster.
He was born July 22, 1929, to Gladys (McClure) and Alec MacLeod and grew up climbing and skiing down the steep hill behind his house in Bradford, Vt. After graduating from the Bradford Academy in 1947, he moved to live with his McClure grandparents and attend college in Pasadena, Calif. He was amazed to find out there was skiing in the nearby mountains, sent for his gear, and was soon winning ski races.
So smitten with his first visit to Sun Valley, Idaho, he got a job frying hamburgers at the Roundhouse and stayed to ski while his friends left for home. His first race there was the Sun Valley employees’ championship. He didn’t know he had won until two days later when the general manager of the resort found him, invited him to the prize-giving, and gave him a better job.
While out of school training for the 1952 Olympic tryouts, he was instead chosen by the Army for duty in the Korean War where he was seriously wounded. After his release from the hospital where he spent nearly a year with his wounds and malaria, the Secretary of the Army presented him with the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest military award for valor.
“Near Dae-Dong, after leading the battalion surgeon and litter-bearers to his company, under heavy fire, Cpl. MacLeod continued alone to one of his comrades lying in exposed terrain and carried him to safety.”
After discharge, while managing and organizing ski shops to pay the bills, he continued winning ski races, including the Lowell Thomas trophy and retiring the Mammoth Mountain Memorial Cup.
In 1957 he began working for Beconta Inc., a company importing and distributing alpine ski wear and equipment, athletic shoes and track and field gear. He spent five years in New York learning the garment trade. In 1962, as vice president of Beconta, he opened warehouses in Denver and the San Francisco Bay Area, where he lived.
His skiing and racing experience made him a bold mover and shaker in the business world. His technical creativity and marketing savvy made Beconta imports the most coveted brands in the U.S. The company was the first to import Puma athletic shoes and the first to import 100,000 pairs of ski boots. He designed and developed many best-sellers, traveling, skiing, testing equipment and making lifelong friendships all over the world. Norm was a huge influence in the growth of American skiing in the 1960s and 70s.
After his career with Beconta, he worked as a consultant in the ski industry, competed in Masters ski races and lived at Lake Tahoe, Calif., and Sun Valley, Idaho, before he and Suzi Harmon Gillis moved to Bend in 1989, looking for another mountain to ski.
Left with very special memories of their lives with Norm are five grandchildren; also sons Gary and Stewart MacLeod, their mother Savina; sons Craig and Lars MacLeod, their mother Nina; and his wife, Suzanne MacLeod—he loved us all.
A celebration of his life with be held this summer at his home in Bend and later an honorary ceremony with the interment of his ashes at the Golden Gate Military Cemetery in Colma/Daly City, Calif.