Dexter MacBride was handed a Valentine in the fourth grade. The sender had scrawled in pencil “Dickster McBrick” across the envelope. The shaken fourth grader has been using that grade school insult as a motivating moment for the rest of his life, which on Saturday reached a ninth decade.
In law school, in Atlanta, his application for the debate squad was shot down when the coach said “I wouldn’t have you under any circumstances.” So, MacBride signed up for the oratory contest and won first place.
While active in the American Society of Appraisers, he wrote a book on eminent domain. The book caught the eye of the Iceland government who invited him to Reykjavik to give a seminar on real estate appraisals. The Indonesian government sent him to Jakarta, where he pointed out that the backward way they were appraising a property’s worth — by the amount of sweet potato yield — was costing them millions in tax revenue.
Then it was on to Lithuania … back to California where he used his law degree not to bleed clients dry but to open a mediation service. Oh yeah, he also served on the Diamond Bar City Council, helped write its first general plan, and followed all this up with a term on the Mount San Antonio College Board of Trustees when he was 81.
“Little by little, I began to say, Dickster McBrick, is that really you? Are you that inside person that doesn’t speak up very often, that little voice that is smarter than we are?” he said.
MacBride’s been listening to his inner muse for 90 years. On Saturday, he and his wife, Grace, who is 80, celebrated his 90th birthday with a party. I was invited but could not attend. I missed hearing harpist Andrea Thiele of Prague, and an appearance by Adam Smith, the 18th century economist, another of MacBride’s alter egos, but this one appears in the flesh in full costume. “Adam said economics should be good housekeeping,” said McBrick, er, MacBride as Smith. “He said ‘We do not have good housekeeping at this point of time in this country,’ ” he said, referring to the national debt.
I first met MacBride when covering a talk he gave on recycling in the late 1980s. In a feature story I called him “guileless” because he was without political spin. Later, he’d invite me to Mt. SAC to see the lastest building or the newest art installation. I’d publish his OPEDs on fully funding community colleges.
Don’t get him started about Fibonacci, the 13th century Italian mathematician. Actually, do it and you will learn something from Diamond Bar’s own Renaissance Man.
I learned that in this job, there are people you meet that you will never forget. That you are privilieged to shake a reporter’s notebook at. Dexter MacBride is one of those people.
He and his bride, Grace will be leaving the San Gabriel Valley they love in a few months, to live with their daughters in Oklahoma City. It will be our loss.