August 26, 2019

Community remembers Pete McNamara as genuine and loving


WEST BRANCH — As the county reels from the sudden passing of Michigan State Police Sgt. Pete McNamara, friends and family remember him for his love and dedication to those he held dear.

McNamara, 54, passed away in his sleep Oct. 9.

Mac, as he was known to most who were close to him, is certainly remembered by members of law enforcement and emergency personnel for his work as a longtime sergeant for the Michigan State Police at the West Branch post. However, what resonates in the remembrance is Mac’s integrity, empathy and spirit.

“He was truly genuine to the core,” Post Commander Lt. Chris Luty said. “Personally and professionally, he was genuine.”

On the job, Mac was known as the person anyone could turn to for help and guidance.

“He was easy access here at the desk and had a lot of knowledge,” Tpr. Renee Rickel said. “(People) were comfortable asking questions and he would work with them to find answers.”

Rickel worked with Mac from the time he joined the West Branch Post 19 years ago. She said he was always the sergeant the troopers looked to as a mentor, a role Mac took great pride in — “helping the cubbies.” Mac had great concern for the young troopers as they adapted to continuing changes in their field of work.

“He saw how the department has changed and I think he was concerned they didn’t get swallowed up,” Rickel said. “He didn’t want the job to take them from the public and that the job didn’t become a numbers game.”

Rickel said Mac enjoyed helping troopers hone their skills to make them more comfortable.

“Mentoring is a throw-around word but he did it in a way that they listened,” she said.

Two-year post veteran Tpr. Jo Hamlin said Mac helped her as she settled into her career.

“He did a lot for me,” she said. “He would help you with anything. He was such a good guy.”

Hamlin said Mac taught the troopers leadership traits by example.

“He was always about helping other people,” she said. “He taught us all how to be a good leader. You could call him anytime.”

Veteran Tpr. Jeff Devine had a theory on why Mac was the go-to guy for everyone.

“Pete seemed to always know a guy he could contact for something,” Devine said. “Whether for information or to get something done, he always knew who to call. He reminded me of Radar O’Reilly from ‘MASH.’ He was not the guy that was on the scene or on the front line, but he always knew how to get stuff done.”

“I really think his strength was administratively at the post,” he continued. “He was here so long he always knew a guy and that really kept the post moving along smoothly. He got things done.”

Mac was well-known by many in the community, but recently his reputation began growing concurrent with his increasing involvement in many clubs such as the Cardinal Optimist Club and the West Branch Optimist Club, where he was recently named president.

“He loved it,” Mac’s wife Andria said. “He loved being a part of it. He truly enjoyed helping people. He was always excited. He would tell me about the meetings and what happened. He got so much enjoyment knowing he was helping people — especially kids.”

“It was something he needed to do,” daughter Stephanie Miller said. “It took him away from the police work and it gave him such satisfaction.”

In what began as a quiet mission to get himself out in the community for a potential run for county sheriff, Mac quickly became consumed by the community and volunteerism, and he could often be found on the sidelines at Whittemore-Prescott football games, or in a cruiser in community parades. In fact, the night before Mac’s sudden passing, he attended two events working to improve his community.

Devine said above everything, and beyond the blue, Mac was dedicated.

“He was dedicated to whatever team he was on,” Devine said. “He was all in.”

Mac loved his family — whether it was his wife, daughters or grandchildren, his brothers and sisters of law enforcement and public safety, or the people in the many organizations he worked in.

“Family was the people you took care of the most,” Devine said. “I think that links back to his dedication he was part of. He would have considered the MSP family, Steuernols family, the groups he was part of family.”

Mac met the love of his life and the foundation of his closest family on a blind date.

Andria said her first impression of Mac was “his amazing personality and sense of humor.”

“We met on a blind date and he was pretty dang cute,” she said.

“We were together from that day forward,” she said. “We just knew we were getting married.”

“I could tell right off the bat how much he loved me and cared about me right from the start,” she continued. “I never doubted it.”

Andria and Mac met Dec. 1, 2000, and were married only a few months later in April 2001. And so began his journey in fatherhood of Andria’s daughters Stephanie Miller and Jennifer Pittenger. The girls said despite his not being their biological father, Mac was the father they could have only dreamed of.

“Pete was our dad,” Jennifer said. “He raised us. I was 10, Stephanie was 12. Our biological father wasn’t there. (Mac) was the one that taught me how to drive, or taught me how to hunt.”

“He was just a phone call away,” Stephanie added. “He was a dad. He never made doubt that he loved us. He never made us feel like we were a burden or baggage of mom.”

Mac loved his children nearly as much as he loved his grandchildren, who began with the eldest, Juliana Miller.

“It was more than love at first sight,” Stephanie said. “You could see how proud he was. It was just radiating off of him.”

Rumor has it that Juliana was the first baby Mac had ever held. He went on to be the proud grandfather of five grandchildren, who were an integral part of his life. Mac’s recent bragging point was Juliana’s success hunting her first doe during the youth hunt Sept. 22. Juliana bagged the deer with Mac’s heirloom rifle.

Hamlin said some of her favorite memories with Mac were when he would share stories about his family, especially his grandchildren.

“I think he was at the happiest point of his life,” she said.

Andria said Mac’s love and empathy were instilled by his family from an early age.

“He has a great family,” she said. “They accepted me from day one. I was never an in-law, I was their sister and their daughter.”

Those family dynamics were what Mac carried with him in life, loving everyone to the best of his ability.

As Mac began to talk about his interest in running for sheriff he began swearing everyone he told to secrecy. The problem was, Mac was telling everyone.

“I will never forget the first time he told us he was running for sheriff,” Stephanie said. “He swore me to secrecy. The next thing I knew, the whole county knew.”

Andria said Mac wanted to make his community a better place, and he believed being elected as county sheriff was the best thing for that.

“He wanted to make a difference in the community,” she said. “He wanted to unite the community and law enforcement. He genuinely cared for everybody.”

As a desk sergeant at the post, Mac was the point of contact for most of the community, including the Ogemaw County Herald. Mac was a firm believer in government transparency and cooperation between entities. He was a guest columnist in the Herald, sharing his knowledge of pertinent topics with the community. The Herald has been asked by the family to continue to publish the columns Mac submitted, posthumously.

Mac will be sorely missed by all. His integrity, empathy and genuine care for the people of the community will be his lasting legacy.

Pete was born Dec. 16, 1963, in Livonia to Harold and Janice (Ruh) McNamara. He graduated from Lakewood High School in 1982 and attended Ferris College where he received a degree in HVAC. Pete enlisted in the Michigan State Police in August 1988 and graduated from the Michigan State Police 104th Recruit School. His first post assignment was in Reed City and later he transferred to the West Branch post.

Pete is survived by his wife, Andria McNamara of West Branch; daughters, Stephanie (Allan) Miller of West Branch and Jennifer (Jason) Pittenger of Clio; grandchildren, Juliana, Tanner, Ryan, Emma and Autumn-Lea; mother, Janice McNamara of St. Joseph; sisters, Maggie (Joe) Dolezal of Dundee and Jean (Jim) Carow of St. Joseph; brother, Michael (Gordon) Higgins of Jackson, Fla.; and several nieces, nephews, in-laws, friends and co-workers. He was preceded in death by his father.

  • McNamara's End of Watch

    Ogemaw County Central Dispatch performed the End of Watch ceremony at the conclusion of MSP Sgt. Pete McNamara's funeral Oct. 13.


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