McDonald, who was to turn 59 in August, had been a game warden for the last 37 years and had mentioned possible retirement this year.
Capt. Henry Balderamas of Rockport, McDonald’s immediate supervisor, said he had heard of McDonald’s interest in retiring. But he said the warden had not officially turned in paperwork.
Balderamas said state game wardens are expected to be present at a memorial service scheduled for McDonald at the Rivers Hills Baptist Church at 16318 FM 624 in Robstown at 2 p.m. today (Wednesday).
“Yes sir, there sure will,” Balderamas answered when asked whether wardens would be at the service.
Balderamas said McDonald’s brother, Kevin McDonald, is a game warden captain and supervisor over wardens in Kenedy, Kleberg, Willacy and Brooks counties.
“Chris had seven different division directors, five regional directors and six district supervisors during those 37 years,” the captain said.
McDonald’s first assignment after completing the Game Warden Academy was in Jefferson County from 1975 until 1977. He then moved to Liberty County until he came to Bee County in 1992.
“Over that 37 years, Chris saw a lot of changes,” Balderamas said. He probably drove a patrol car instead of the trucks that warden now drive, and he most likely carried a revolver.
“He probably started out with a 17-foot Empire aluminum boat,” the captain added. Today, game wardens have larger and faster fiberglass watercraft.
Equipment and weapons changes have been only a part of the transition game wardens have undergone in the last four decades.
“In later years, one of his biggest projects was introducing youth to hunting,” Balderamas said. McDonald made it a point to arrange a hunt for young people at one of the local ranches.
McDonald also was active in Beeville’s Masonic Lodge.
A Master Mason, McDonald served as the lodge’s worshipful master in 1996. Joe Causey, secretary of the local lodge, said Friday that McDonald was a member of the Scottish Rite Masons in the San Antonio Valley and the York Rite body in Corpus Christi.
“He was a respected member of the lodge,” Causey said. McDonald’s father had belonged to the same Masonic organizations, and he lived in Corpus Christi.
A longtime friend, former Bee County Sheriff’s Office Investigator, Stephen Martin, confirmed that McDonald’s father had passed away only days earlier.
Martin currently is a Special Ranger for District 30 of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.
When contacted Friday afternoon, Martin had just learned of his friend’s death and was on his way back to Beeville to be with the McDonald family.
Martin said he had been one of McDonald’s officers in the Beeville lodge when the warden served as worshipful master.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.