Driving up to the gate of a British nobleman's house is a promising experience. However, this one didn't look anything like a majestic English gentleman's country estate. Off a dusty blacktop road in an open range area on Tucson's far east side, near the foothills of the Rincon Mountains', is a 151-acre ranch. At 14396 East Reddington Road, the double gate is right out of a western rancher's catalog down to the padlocks, three different sizes and shapes holding the old chain together. The security meant to keep people out and the Beatle family in, should Sir Paul McCartney ever opt to come back to the Old Pueblo after the heartbreaking passing of his wife Linda at the ranch house in 1998. The gates appear well kept for desert standards, and there is a black mailbox posted out front. McCartney's company still pays taxes on the property; someone obviously maintains the place, keeps the gate in working order, and collects the junk mail. But that's the back story. What we have here is a yarn about an affair of the heart, a larger-than-life love affair.
The following is an honest to goodness Camelot-style love story replete with a chivalric royal Knight and his queen. This fairy tale chronicle with courtship, romance, devotion, and raw, unbridled emotion took place over the McCartney family's 19-years at the ranch in Tucson. It is a life and death tale spanning the world and ending in this modest house along the Tanque Verde River valley near Reddington Pass.
Paul McCartney's connection with Tucson was through his wife, Linda Eastman. She attended the University of Arizona, where she began her prolific photography career. She was enamored with the desert beauty and tranquility of life. The two met in London in 1967 when Linda was on a photo assignment for a book about rock stars. Following a two-year courtship, the couple was married in 1969 in a civil ceremony at a town hall in London. They soon pushed each other beyond the limits of their combined imagination. Over the 29-year marriage, Paul was the most creative in his musical career, and Linda blossomed as a musician.
After buying the Tucson ranch in 1979, the McCartney family began to grow. The house became a dominant family home, mainly in the spring and fall— A place to be free and one with nature, away from global prying eyes. Locals understood and gave them a wide berth. Occasionally mom, dad and the children would venture out and thrill Tucsonans at restaurants and stores. The McCartneys visited the old Skaggs Drug Store at Speedway and Camino Seco, especially at Halloween and Thanksgiving. During these times, fans would hang out waiting for autographs and a glimpse of the rock star family entourage. Other locals camped out at the nearby AJ Bayless grocery store, where Paul would kindly sign albums while picking up milk and bread.
In 1995, Linda was diagnosed with breast cancer. The privacy of the ranch allowed her to treat the disease and heal in secluded personal privilege. All of which brought the family of four children and dad even closer.
Just days before Linda's passing, she and Paul rode her much-loved Appaloosa horses, Spot, and Blanket, over the ranch and adjoining wilderness area, enjoying the private time together. Paul and Linda's doctors had decided not to tell her how much her cancer had aggressively spread.
In the predawn hours of Friday, April 17, 1998, 56-year-old Linda Eastman McCartney died at the Tucson ranch house. Paul and the family, including all four children, were with her. A half-moon traversed the Tucson star-filled sky on the evening of her passing. It cast a consoling soft nocturnal glow over their tin roof stucco house off Reddington Road. Pure nature fostered a calming across the picturesque Rincon Mountain wilderness that Linda so loved---And there was peace across the valley of Camelot. Over their 29-year marriage, the couple had only been apart one night.
Linda's body was cremated in Tucson and became part of the desert she respected and embraced when the family spread her ashes at the ranch before returning to London.
Tucsonans Greg Ash and Dave Slavin contributed to this story.
Winner of the 2020 State of Arizona Press Club 2nd Place Community Column Writers Award. Jerry Wilkerson lives in SaddleBrooke. He is a former press secretary for two U.S. Congressmen, a prior Chicago CBS radio and newspaper correspondent. Wilkerson is a navy veteran and served as a Police Commissioner. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.