Carousel Receives Generous Donation in Memory of Carver, Alex McDonald


Patricia Donlin, of Port Angeles, Washington, has given A Carousel for Missoula $1 million dollars as a memorial to her younger brother, Alex McDonald. McDonald, one of the original Carousel carvers, died in 2018.

“A donation of this size was completely unexpected. We can’t thank Pat enough for choosing to memorialize Alex in this way,” said Carousel executive director Theresa Cox. “It never occurred to the board, staff or volunteers that we might someday receive such a generous gift. How fitting that Alex will be forever remembered in the laughter of children who ride on these beautiful ponies.”

“This gift will ensure the long-term viability of the Carousel and Dragon Hollow and increase our ability to respond to opportunities as they arise.  We will continue to welcome support from our many loyal donors for our day-to-day operations,” commented Betsy Grimley, president of the Carousel’s board of directors. “One of the ways we can honor such a gift is to continue the work that inspired it. By prudently managing the donation, we can ensure the viability of A Carousel for Missoula and Dragon Hollow for generations to come.”

Donlin remembers her brother as a sweet, giving man. “My brother, Alex McDonald, was, to me, the nicest, calmest, most honest, considerate and unselfish person. He was also a perfectionist in everything he did. When Chuck Kaparich needed carvers to help create the Carousel, my brother volunteered. I believe he carved three of the ponies and parts of others. He also helped with the gargoyles. The Carousel was very dear to his heart and thus to me.

I am happy to do this in his memory. I know my brother is dancing!”

Alex was a Missoula fireman for 24 years, including time as battalion chief; he was in the National Guard — based at Fort Missoula — and he served in the Army as a specialist in Fire Direction Control in New Ulm, Germany.

Alex was a talented carver and artist. He began, as many carvers did, carving and painting one of the 14 gargoyles that adorn the rounding board of the Carousel. He went on to carve parts of several horses, including Freya, Montana Appaloosa, Norm and Sleipnir. When the Carousel was complete, he joined Chuck Kaparich, the originator of A Carousel for Missoula, in other carving projects. Alex created and donated several handmade violins to the Carousel as auction items to help raise funds for operations.

“Alex was a gentleman in every sense of the word,” said John Thompson, board member and another original carver. “He never said much, but he had a remarkably positive presence. His work was exceptional.”

Donlin worked for Boeing Computer Service, which started as a subsidiary of Boeing. She and her coworkers all heard of the Microsoft company when it began. Donlin was very conscious of every Microsoft building she saw going up while she traveled to and from work. She called her broker and gave him instructions to purchase stock. As soon as that stock went public, she wanted in. When the stock got to $43 a share, most people sold. A Seattle radio station called Donlin to see if they could interview her as she had held fast. Her interest in Microsoft shares allowed her to pay cash for her home when her family moved to Port Angeles; otherwise, she uses the stock to be philanthropic, giving to a variety of causes.

A Carousel for Missoula opened in 1995, after a four-year volunteer effort that included more than 100,000 hours of time given to carving, sanding, painting, restoring an antique carousel frame and motor, and raising funds to build a building and purchase materials, supplies and services that could not be donated. It was a grassroots project, funded largely by small donations. It operates on an annual budget of about $280,000. Of that amount, approximately 75% comes from operations. The remainder must be raised through events, solicitation and sponsorships.

As the Carousel approaches its 25th birthday in 2020, the board and staff are looking back to see what has been valuable to the community, and looking forward to plan for the future of the Carousel and Dragon Hollow. These gifts the community gave itself so many years ago continue to give back every day. Thanks in large part to Patricia’s generous donation, the ponies will continue to spin, the dragon will continue to welcome children, and Missoula will continue to point with pride to what it created for the benefit of us all.