Retired Marine who Fought to House Homeless Vets Has Died

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Volunteers help with the finishing touches on some of the tiny homes in the Veterans Community Project village.
Volunteers help with the finishing touches on some of the tiny homes in the Veterans Community Project village.

Veterans and loved ones laid Peter Macdonald to rest this week, one week after the 67-year-old succumbed to metastatic esophageal cancer and service-related disabilities.

Macdonald is best remembered as a local advocate for veterans, drawing from his own life experiences to shelter homeless veterans at his Veteran Resort Chapel in Lee, New Hampshire. 

"He was striving to do something for homeless veterans for many years," said Dale Hardy, a former commander of Lee's Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10676. "He had been one at one time himself. He was trying to pay it back."

Macdonald died Sept. 28.

Macdonald's 101 Steppingstones Road property provided housing to homeless combat veterans free of charge, and provided a place where veterans could practice their religious beliefs. It featured detached, tiny home-style buildings around a residential home that had a chapel in its basement.

Macdonald and the Veteran Resort Chapel made headlines in 2017 and 2018 because of a legal dispute with the town's government over the tiny homes' noncompliance with local land-use regulations. The court system ultimately ruled in favor of the town, declaring the Veteran Resort Chapel was not a church and that it had to adhere to Lee's residential zoning laws.

Macdonald was ordered to pay more than $93,000 to the town as a result of the court proceedings. After he failed to do so, the property was sold at auction in May 2018. Since then, the property's new owner, identified only as Mr. Fetterman, has used it for residential purposes and there have been no litigation, land-use citations or variance applications filed in connection with it, according to town officials.

"His heart was always in the right place," Hardy said. "He could be contentious, unfortunately, with officials, so he wasn't always successful in what he wanted to do, but I think his heart was in the right place."

According to people Macdonald helped, the court loss and the auctioning of the Veteran Resort Chapel were hard to swallow, given the impact the chapel had on them.

Shannon O'Toole, an Air Force veteran who lived on the property for 18 months, said she plans to continue Macdonald's vision. She said it's needed because many communities across the country are using zoning laws to push out people in need.

"He was gruff and no nonsense but with a heart of gold and only helping other vets in mind," O'Toole wrote in a message.

Macdonald, a retired Marine Corps sergeant, was buried Friday in the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen.

He was born June 15, 1952, in Lynn, Massachusetts, to Phyllis (LeBlanc) and Donald Macdonald. He spent most of his childhood in Alton, was a resident of Lee for 34 years, and was a devoted family man, according to his obituary.

Area residents have shared a number of warm memories and messages about Macdonald on the tribute wall attached to his obituary on Purdy Funeral Service's website.

One person described him as someone who "left a lasting impression," while another expressed remorse about the Veteran Resort Chapel's fate.

"I have so many wonderful memories of Pete that I am having difficulty picking just one," wrote Sara Hampton. "So I will just say this: His (strength), loyalty, and dedication taught me many things. He will forever live in my heart as one of the misunderstood and unsung heroes of this world. Tomorrow morning, I will sit at my patio table with my coffee cup and yours and remember you and all of our talks and laughs. I know you have finally found peace in the arms of God, and for that I am grateful. But damn I will miss you!"

In lieu of flowers, Macdonald's family has asked donations be made to Rolling Thunder New Hampshire Chapter One.

This article is written by Kyle Stucker from Foster's Daily Democrat, Dover, N.H. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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