Meredith Lynn Mac Rae was born in Houston, Texas on May 30, 1944 on an Army base where her father, Gordon Mac Rae, was stationed. Gordon Mac Rae was a singer and movie idol of the '50s (Roger & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma and Carousel), and her mother, Sheila Mac Rae, is an actress/comedienne and author.
At an early age Meredith started her own acting career in the film "Carousel", she also starred in two long-lasting family sitcoms: "Petticoat Junction”, and “My Three Sons”. She guest starred in many other television shows including Fantasy Island, Magnum P. I., The Rockford Files, Webster (the highest rated episode ever), she also appeared in several movies and had a singing career. She made audiences smile.
In her private life, she had a unique way of making other people feel special. A friend once said that Meredith could go into a room and know everyone’s name, their spouses’ names and their occupations within fifteen minutes of being there. Her beauty was enhanced by her genuine warmth and gracious presence.
When Ms. Mac Rae was ten, her father's alcoholism lead to her parents' divorce. She was devastated and that experience led her on a crusade to educate the public about the disease. She was very proud of her show, "A Second Chance: Surviving Alcoholism", a project she wrote, co-produced, and hosted. She was honorary chairperson of the National Council on Alcoholism and spoke to groups all over the country about being "the adult child of an alcoholic."
She obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from UCLA in English. In 1964 she married Richard Berger, former president of MGM. They divorced four years later. In 1969 Meredith married actor Greg Mullavey who currently is on the TV Show iCarly On Nickeloden and playing a recurring role as iCarly's Grandfather... other shows were “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman”, “Forever Fernwood”, “Number 96”, and Feature Film “Bob, Carol, Ted, and Alice”. Greg and Meredith divorced 1992 but remained friends. They had one daughter, Allison, born in 1974. Allison attended University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, and Chapman University in Orange, California. Allison has a B.F.A in Film and Television Production.
Allison’s favorite memory of her mother is their “Mommy and Ali Days” where just the two of them went shopping, to the movies, or just hung out. Her mother was loving and supportive, always attending her school productions and softball games despite her busy schedule. From the time Allison was six months old, Meredith took her along on business travel and guest appearances whenever possible. Together they visited England, Ireland, Scotland, Caribbean, France, Hong Kong, and Australia, among others. They met the Duchess of York and the Royal family of Monte Carlo; but they also saw the slums of Thailand and El Salvador. Allison believes her mother let her see different people’s lives to teach her to be grateful for what God had given her.
In 1995 Meredith married Phillip M. Neal, who was Chairman and CEO of Avery-Dennison at the time (now deceased).
Meredith was close to her brothers and sisters: Heather Mac Rae (Actress and Singer), William Gordon (Gar) Mac Rae (Retired from Paramount Studios (Sound Engineer), Bruce Mac Rae (Composer) (deceased), and her half-sister, Amanda Mac Rae.
Allison described her mother as whirlwind – a “whoosh” that changed the energy in the whole house when she got home. She never sat, but rather rushed around, always in a hurry, making innumerable lists, walking the treadmill, talking on the phone, and eating, all at the same time. She carried her life around in her car, which her friends called “the disaster zone”. She loved garage sales as much as shopping on Rodeo Drive.
Together Meredith and Allison spent hours walking with their dogs, Shinka, Rascal, Cuddles, Tonka and Jesse on the trails off Mulholland Drive. She was an avid whale watcher and loved the ocean. She and Allison became certified scuba divers in 1988.
Meredith loved entertaining but, although a gourmet cook, she rarely set foot in the kitchen except on holidays. Her annual Christmas tree trimming party was renowned but her friends also knew that it was the only way that her giant tree would ever get decorated.
Meredith knew everyone who was anyone and used to put together a women’s group meeting which she called, for lack of a better name, “Ladies Fun Night.” She held this dinner forum in the Murdock Tower in Westwood, California every month or two, and always arranged a guest speaker. The attendees were high powered business/entertainment women; a regular guest list of 25 might include Abigail Van Buren, Linda Henning, Elvira, and Gloria Allred, all at the same table. But on those nights the women, important as they were, had a chance to discuss whatever was on their minds. Only Meredith could have thought of such a “fun” idea.
Eventually Meredith became a television producer and writer. She created and hosted "BORN FAMOUS", a series of specials in which she interviewed children of famous parents. She also made several PBS specials tackling women's issues, medical problems, and the aging of America. Her style and tough investigative questions as the host of “Mid-Morning Los Angeles”, won her an Emmy. She also received the Angel Award as producer of the most outstanding documentary of the year, a Vesta Award for Excellence in Journalism and, a Bronze Halo Award from the Motion picture Broadcast Council.
Her good business head led her to form her own corporation, Allison Lee, Inc., named after her daughter. She was one of the founding members of Women in Film and took charge of the creation, selection and administration of student grants.
Her career was demanding, but she found time to be involved with many causes and charities. Former Los Angeles Mayor Thomas Bradley cited her as an outstanding woman for her many contributions to the community. She was saluted as Celebrity Businesswoman of the Year by NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners); received a U.S. Senate Certificate of Commendation and a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition.
In the late nineteen nineties, Meredith experienced vertigo and a loss of short term memory. She was misdiagnosed as being in peri-menopause. In 1999, she went to the doctor complaining of had severe headaches and was told it just muscle spasms, she needed more spine stretching. She went for a second opinion and was shocked when she was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer (Stage 5 is the most severe). She had emergency surgery to remove the brain tumor from the right front side of her head. She stopped breathing and almost died afterwards but recovered, although not completely. She agreed to be part of an experimental cancer drug program, but had an allergic reaction causing her brain to swell. Two more surgeries were required. On top of everything else, her imbalance caused her to fall and break her hip. Her husband, daughter and mother took constant care of her.
At the end she asked them to have her ashes spread over the ocean so she could “swim with her whales, dolphins and fishies”.
Throughout her ordeal, she maintained her dignity and her sense of humor. She showed the same remarkable inner strength in dying that she’d always had in living.
We miss her.