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Family dedicates plaque to downed pilot

Friends and family gathered at the northeast corner of Glenoaks and Brand Boulevards on Sunday to pay tribute to Ron Macklin, the first helicopter pilot from Glendale killed in Vietnam, as they honored his memory with a bronze plaque dedicated to his service.

Macklin’s widow, Maggie Macklin and daughter, Jenna met with about 30 guests who stood around the plaque, which is mounted on a metal bench near a patch of flowers.

Glendale resident Bob Lemke, a friend of the Macklin family, arranged to have the plaque dedicated.

“It’s a reminder that this is the first guy who was killed in Vietnam from Glendale,” Lemke said. “And I think it’s very fitting that some notation should be made.”

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The group sang “God Bless America” and family members and friends took the time to remember Ron Macklin.

“He was always smiling,” Kathy Conte, Maggie Macklin’s sister, said. “He wanted to be a policeman. He was in the Air Force first and then he re-enlisted in the Army. Less than a year of service, he was killed.”

Ron Macklin was a lifelong Glendale resident who died in Vietnam in 1965 at the age of 27, Conte said. He attended Hoover High School and Glendale Community College, she added.

Maggie Macklin held back tears as she spoke about her husband.

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“It rained at his funeral,” she said. “It rained when my daughter and I were in Vietnam and went to where Ron died.”

Maggie and Jenna Macklin traveled to Vietnam about one year ago and visited the sight where Ron Macklin’s helicopter crashed.

Jenna Macklin, a Long Beach resident, was only three years old when her father died. She brought back a vial of soil from the site where her father died and emptied it around the tree that was planted in his memory 15 years ago.

The tree stands on Glenoaks Boulevard, a few feet away from the plaque.

“I feel like I learned a lot more on that trip about my father,” Jenna Macklin said. “I felt he really was a hero. Hearing other people talk about him. It was nice to go there. I feel like I knew him because of going there.”

Other guests at the plaque dedication included members of the Los Angeles county chapter of the Gold Star Wives of America, Inc., a nonprofit membership organization consisting of military widows whose spouses died on active duty while serving in the Armed Forces.

“It’s a wonderful honor and it’s long overdue,” Elaine McNown, president of the Gold Star Wives, Golden State Chapter, said.

At the end of the tribute, the group of attendees sang Maggie Macklin’s favorite song, “Zippity Doo Dah.”

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Northridge resident and Maggie Macklin’s friend Natalie Harris felt emotional as she stood near the plaque. Although she never met Ron Macklin, Harris still felt a connection to him.

“It’s a beautiful plaque and it makes me want to cry even though I didn’t know him,” Harris said.


 ANI AMIRKHANIAN is a news assistant. She may be reached at (818) 637-3230 or by e-mail at ani.amirkhanian@latimes.com.


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