Earl Floyd MacMillen

Earl Floyd MacMillen

VOORHEESVILE — Earl Floyd MacMillen knew a lot about ice cream, standardbred horses, and farming. But above all he knew about life, a knowledge he acquired in his 85 years of living it.  “Earl enjoyed teaching his children and grandchildren important life lessons and was always there to give advice and support,” his family wrote in tribute.

Mr. MacMillen passed away peacefully in his home here, surrounded by loving family, on Monday, July 25, 2016.

He was born on Feb. 12, 1931, the son of Hiram and Dorothy (née  Crawford) MacMillen, at the family’s farmhouse in New Salem. Mr. MacMillen and his younger brother and best friend Wilkins continued to farm the rest of their lives, helping each other whenever needed.  His brother died on Feb. 5 of this year.

Farming was always Earl MacMillen’s  true passion, his family says. “He was always at his happiest when baling hay or riding on his tractor.” He began enjoying his first love by helping out on the family farm when he was just 4 years old, and  he didn’t cease to farm until he was 81 and had a stroke. “He was baling and loading hay for customers on Saturday, and on Monday he had the stroke,” his wife says.

His own farm bordered the grounds of the Punkintown Fair, a fundraiser for the volunteer fire department, which he attended faithfully, year after year, providing parking for fairgoers as well.

His wife Beverly, known as “Bev”, whom he married 52 years ago, says he was “a loving, caring man...a very dedicated man, to his farm, to his family ...his dedication to life was great.”

She sums up the lessons he liked to teach this way: “Work hard, play hard, and love what you do.”

Mr. MacMillen truly worked hard. For 35 years, he worked at the New York State Department of  Transportation Station in Voorheesville. But a typical day for him would begin  with a few hours of farm work before going to his job and would end the same way, happily back in his fields.

As a young man in his 20s, Mr. MacMillen and his brother decided to branch out from farming, or rather make farming pay in an added way. They founded Tastee Treat, a local and still-popular landmark on New Scotland Avenue.

Someone had suggested to them that they buy a pasteurizer and make their own ice cream from the milk their cows produced.  In the 1950s, national chains weren’t so dominant, and independent businessmen like the MacMillen brothers could start something easily.

They didn’t want to be a franchise operation. But they did borrow the look of their new ice cream and hamburger stand from a national chain.  

It turned out well for Mr. MacMillen. His future wife, and neighbor, came to work at Tastee Treat and romance bloomed. Mrs. MacMillen recalls how Tastee Treat would stay open late on weekend nights  in order to feed the crowds on their way home from a movie at the Indian Ladder Drive-In, one of the many businesses that lined Route 85A then, almost all of them gone now.

After three years of building the business, the brothers — both of them now married and starting families — leased it. It was sold eight years ago to new owners, who have preserved its now retro look.

“The farmwork, their regular jobs, their growing families, and the ice cream business — they were getting spread pretty thin,” Mrs. MacMillen remembers.

But, even though he loved it, you could not keep Mr. MacMillen down on the farm.  In the 1960s, his wife fondly recalls, they took up western square dancing, joining the Heldeberg Twirlers in Scotia.

Other happy  moments in their life together happened at the Saratoga Harness Track. The couple took up breeding standardbred horses. A favorite in their small stable of colts and mares was a “little guy named Mac Tastee Treat.”

“He was too small to be a big winner, but he did pretty well at county fairs,” Mrs. MacMillen recalls.

After Mr. MacMillen’s retirement in 1988, the couple enthusiastically dedicated themselves to travel, both in this country and Europe. They even managed to track down his Scottish origins to an island in the Hebrides.

Mr. MacMillen was an active member of the New Salem Reformed Church, serving as a deacon and Sunday school teacher there, until the church closed.

He was a past member of the New Salem Volunteer Fire Department, and of Redmen’s Hall.

But perhaps he would like best to be remembered as a hard-working farmer.

****

Earl Floyd MacMillen is survived by his wife Beverly (née  Frisbee) MacMillen; by three children: Dawn James and her husband, Ken; Janet D’Angelo and her husband, Lawrence; and David and his wife, Alysa. He is also survived by his grandchildren, Sarah, Heather, Haley, Michael, Cayle, and Ian; and a great-grandson, Jeremiah.

His parents, Hiram and Dorothy, and his brother, Wilkins, died before him.

Calling hours will be held at the Fredenhall Funeral Home in Altamont, on Saturday, July 30, from 10 a.m. to noon, at which time a funeral service will be held. Interment will follow at the Onesquethaw Union Cemetery. Memorial donations can be made to the New Salem Volunteer Fire Department, 694 New Salem Road, Voorheesville 12186.

-- Tim Tulloch

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