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Mack the Life:

After a life of travel, Francesca and Wolfgang Mack settle on Mercer Island

Courting business and closing on deals, Mercer Island’s Wolfgang Mack built a thriving career as an engineer and executive. The debonair, charismatic and quick-witted Wolfgang can charm any room in his native German, as well as fluently in French and English, and conversationally in Spanish.   

Courting his would-be wife, however, was the toughest sell. He would make a strong first impression on a flight but a young Francesca proved to be a tough customer.  

They have been married for 60 years now, together for 62, and after traveling and living all over the world they settled at Aegis Mercer Island two years ago, mere days before the country went on the COVID-19 pandemic-induced shutdown.  

In between, Francesca and Wolfgang raised four sons. Francesca produced enough art to fill their and their sons’ homes, and then some. Wolfgang built a successful career as an engineer and business executive. He would also publish books, including most recently a prescient volume on the dangers of autocracies.  

When they first locked glances on a flight over sixty years ago, Wolfgang stood out as tall, dark and handsome, Francesca recalls. He would travel from his home in New York to Europe, regularly on business. She was an airline hostess for TWA, at the time led by eccentric business titan Howard Hughes. 

“This was in January and he was returning from a ski trip in Europe so he was tanned,” Francesca said wistfully stealing a glance of Wolfgang lounging in their Aegis Mercer Island apartment in November. “He had long dark hair when all the Americans had crew cuts. He had a continental-cut suit. He stood out as very continental.” 

However, nursing emotional wounds after recently calling off a marriage engagement, Francesca was cautious and wondered if the smooth-talking Wolfgang was already married.  

“But it wasn’t so easy,” Francesca recalls. “Remember, I had just broken an engagement so now I was going to be very careful. I wasn’t rushing into anything.”  

He was a focused young man and an ambitious professional. A man of substance and culture, sporting an MBA from Syracuse University as a Fulbright Scholar and a Ph.D. from Innsbruck University in Austria with shared interests in the fine and performing arts.  

Gradually, at the urging of her roommates at the time, Francesca would call Wolfgang’s house multiple times during different business hours knowing that he would not be home but perhaps another woman living with him would answer. But there was only one woman in Wolfgang’s eyes.  

Their first date started with cocktails at the Manhattan Club, followed by the play “Marriage Go-Round" at the Plymouth Theatre and then late night supper. Francesca was smitten. They have been together since.  

Francesca retired from flying in 1962 to focus on raising their sons. Trained in the fine arts at Ramapo College in New Jersey under the legendary Dr. Judith Peck, Francesca also devoted herself to her passion for painting. Their Aegis apartment is filled with her art, sharing wall space with an original Joan Miro on one wall, Asian textiles on another and most prominently to the Macks, the art of their grandchildren.  

In fact, it was wanting to be closer to their grandchildren that motivated the Macks to move from New Jersey, first to Seattle’s First Hill over twenty years ago and as of two years ago to Aegis on Mercer Island.  

It hasn’t been all romance, refrigerator art and leisure living for the Macks, however. Wolfgang grew up in World War II Germany opposing the war. He lost two brothers during the war.  

Mack was drafted, mandatory at the time, to fight in WWII at age 15. He did not see battle action and instead was appointed to the home guard.  

“You are supposed to stay put where you lived,” explained of his mandatory role during the war. "We took care of refugees and cleaned the streets after air raids. We would patrol the streets at night to make sure everyone was OK.”  

The locals eventually made it a point to spare more deaths of young soldiers and sheltered them in the mountains of the Black Forest in southwest Germany bordering France’s Alsace region, saving Mack from seeing any more action. Less than six months later, the war was over.  

“There were enough sensible old people who scooped us 15-year-olds and said, ‘look fellows, enough is enough,’” Wolfgang recalled. “We surrendered our weapons and they put us up in the mountains because there were lots of youngsters from local families. The loss of life and atrocities was too much.”  

The experience of autocratic Germany was the inspiration for his book, “Parallels in Autocracy: How Nations Lose Their Liberty,” published in the summer of 2020 in time for the last presidential election. He also drew from his experience traveling the world to countries under dictatorships and autocratic regimes. The paperback book is available on Amazon.com for under $10.  

The Macks are enjoying the freedom and independence that Aegis Mercer Island provides.  

“It’s the best decision we ever made,” Wolfgang said of moving to Aegis. “It really is just the right thing for us at the right time. I'd like to say it is really being able to feel like family and caring about each other and that's not just a trite statement. It really does feel like that.”  

“It’s the best decision we ever made,” Wolfgang said of moving to Aegis. “It really is  just the right thing for us at the right time. I'd like to say it is really being able to feel like family and caring about each other and that's not just a trite statement. It really does feel like that.”  

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