Malcolm "Mac" Joseph Vanderploeg

- April 13, 2024

Malcolm “Mac” Joseph Vanderploeg, aged 71, passed away April 13th, 2024. Ironically, he left this world the same time he started every day of his life - early, eager to be first and working to beat the sun to the horizon. He was preceded in death by his parents Mary Magdalene Harrell and Weba Auns Vanderploeg; brothers, Richard, Bobby, Weba, Eddie and Danny. He is survived by his wife, Kim Tirrell Vanderploeg of Gordonsville, Va; daughter, Gretchen Vanderploeg Wood and son-in-law Brook Wood of Charlottesville, Va; daughter, Jessica Hutchinson Wiley and son-in-law Andrew Wiley of Staunton, Va., along with his children Noah and Grant Wiley; grandsons, T-Mac (his namesake), Truitt, and Drew; and four beloved dogs, Tank, Minnie, Birdie and granddog, Posie; two sisters, Connie Pugh and Mary Ann Everette, both of Richmond, VA; and a slew of nieces, nephews, cousins, friends and his extended Digs Family.

Born June 11, 1952, in Norfolk, Va., Mac entered this world into a large family, each of them driven by dedication to hard work. The family owned and operated Vans Dairy Farm, at which Mac was immediately tasked with helping to care for and work the farm…on occasion including a flight out of the haybarn loft in a homemade parachute with little brother Danny following his lead. This upbringing taught him that work ethic and dedication was revered above all else and that failure was not an option; the farm life, the Vanderploeg way of life. In 1965 the family moved to Scottsville, Va., where Mac lived out his adolescence and young adulthood. In 1980 Mac married his soulmate and in 1988 they moved to Charlottesville.

Mac was a larger-than-life person who seemed invincible to many. He was known to get frustrated by those who didn’t work as hard as he did, yet the thought that no one could work as hard as he eluded him. From sunup to sundown, Mac was always moving, always building, always doing. In fact, on more than one occasion, he was known to wake friends and family with a 6 a.m. phone call or by operating a backhoe in their backyard before the light of dawn. Mac had two speeds, on and off; and when he was on, there was no stopping him, unless of course the day’s endeavors were deserving of an afternoon nap.

Though he dropped out of high school when his father died to help care for his mother, Mac possessed innovative ingenuity that books could never teach. He had the exceptional ability to calculate and execute a vision that most others could not believe possible until seen in completion. This unmatched talent led him to establish his own business Digs Inc., in 1990.

Soon after, his daughter Gretchen joined making it a true family business; a partnership that made Mac immensely proud. Their vision and dedication drove Digs Inc. to succeed in the Charlottesville community and though his leadership will be sorely missed and his impact surely irreplaceable, his legacy will continue through his business and through his family. Mac developed a reputation among his many business partnerships as a no-nonsense, no-excuses, tenacious business mind who was not afraid to take risks, bend the rules, or get his hands dirty to prove something could be done. He was a magician with heavy equipment, revered for his skill in moving and manipulating the land in ways no other person could. He was also a master gardener whose passion for planting and growing vegetables with the sole intent to share good food with those he loved often resulted in a yield that could feed the entire neighborhood. Mac never did a thing on a small scale and that mentality went beyond just his garden, applying to everything he pursued. Mac expressed love for others by doing for them and he did a great deal for a great many.

Mac’s life wasn’t always easy. As he would share with anyone he talked to, Mac battled addiction for decades. In 2004 Mac took on a life-long challenge of sobriety and not only remained steadfast to the endeavor for the remainder of his life but also helped many others do the same. He was a mentor to those who struggled with addiction or who were down on their luck. He encouraged others through tough love and by sharing the value and pride that comes with hard work. Though a man of few words, his actions were demonstrative of great love and his sentiments were deeply felt; Mac left no doubt in the hearts of those whose lives he touched of how much he cared.

“Mac Vanderploeg” is synonymous with many things: work ethic, businessman, father, husband, friend, family man, leader, unstoppable, fearless, dedicated, and even pain in the butt; however, he is loved and admired for each and every attribute. Mac once said that he had worked two lifetimes in one, so now we hope he can rest and ride his gator to the gates of heaven; a place sure to have a buffet full of all-you-can eat sardines, Vienna sausages, Cheetos, fresh tomatoes and corn, and a fountain of Coke Zero. Undoubtedly, he is receiving a hearty welcome from his brothers and countless others who have gone before him. Mac, the man, the myth, the legend, now resides behind those pearly gates and we can only imagine how he is planning to renovate and landscape the place.

Mac’s family would like to extend special thanks to Lizzie Lawwill, Nurse Practitioner, and neighbor who Mac adored, trusted, and leaned upon in his final weeks. To Dr. Erin McLoughlin and Dr. Anthony Crimaldi who took such excellent care of Mac - not only as a cancer patient but as a person. To Roy Carter, Mac’s sponsor as well as close and faithful confidant. To Will and Peg Holt who served as best friends, always there at the drop of a hat to help in any way. Also, to Ken Wheeler, for being a true and dear friend to Mac in life and after.

The family plans to hold a memorial service to celebrate the life of Mac at 2 p.m. on May 15, 2024, at East Belmont Farm in Albemarle County, address 150 E Belmont Farm, Charlottesville Va., 22902. We invite friends and family to attend and share a memory of your time with Mac. He was never one for Pomp and Circumstance so please attend in comfortable attire; work boots welcomed.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Project GROWS Farm in his name to support the Mac Vanderploeg scholarship fund for youth farmers and growers. Checks can be sent to Project GROWS, P.O. Box 781 Staunton, Va., 24402