November 8, 1921 - July 24, 2013 |
John M Gilchrist Sr, known to his family and many friends as "Gilly," died peacefully at home at the age of 91.
John was born in Grand Island, Nebraska but was destined to make his unique mark in California. Like many families during the 1920s, the Gilchrists headed west and settled in Los Angeles, where John was to become a big part of its development.
He attended University High School during which time he met and fell in love with Marjorie "Marty" Pulliam. They were to be married 62 years until Marty's death in 2005. In 1939, they were both accepted at UCLA where John pledged Zeta Psi fraternity.
His interest in business began early, and in the summer after his freshman year at UCLA, he became the business manager of the Lubbock Hubbers, a championship winning minor league baseball team based in Lubbock, Texas. He was so young to be a business manager he had to secure special dispensation from the commissioner of Major League Baseball to sign player contracts.
John also loved football. He played both in high school and as a freshman for the UCLA Bruins. John's energy and skill was such that in the spring of 1943, shortly after the US had joined the Second World War, the Air Force recruited John to play for the 4th Air Force football team with the promise of Officer Candidate School at the end of the season. John saw this as a way to accelerate his goal of becoming an officer and serve in the war effort.
Following officer training at Fort Benning, Georgia, on August 30, 1943 John became a 2nd lieutenant in the Army. But by late 1943, as the Air Force had started daylight bombings in Europe, there was a growing need for pilots. John, ever keen to serve to maximum effect, sent an application to transfer to the Air Force. 30 days later he was training to fly B 24s. By the summer of 1945, he had his own command and a combat crew ready to go, but the war ended before he saw action.
Separated from the service in October 1945 and still in uniform, John ended up on the doorstep of Coldwell Banker in Los Angeles where he was hired immediately as a straight commission salesman in the Wilshire office.
John's rise at Coldwell Banker is testimony to a powerful work ethic and an attitude that made him an inspiration to many of his peers, younger colleagues, friends, and family. He worked in apartment, commercial and shopping center properties in Los Angeles until 1958 when he was made branch manager of the Los Angeles office. In 1964 he was elected vice president and three years later became a corporate director of the then publicly held company. Responsibility for operations of other Los Angeles area offices were added to his duties in 1969 and further expanded to include all southern California by 1970. He was named Western division manager in January 1982.
His leadership was legendary and he had a great belief in the importance of service. "We trained our people to learn where in the business they could provide a service. Forget what the commission was" John once said. "Production was important but more important was what kind of service are you providing your clients?" He retired as Executive Vice President and Division Manager for the Western United States after 38 years with the company.
Longtime residents of Santa Monica, John, Marty and their three sons spent many happy years at The Santa Monica Beach Club, where he served as president. He also belonged to The Jonathan Club and The Los Angeles Country Club, and was active in The Rotary Club of Los Angeles, the Urban Land Institute, and the International Council of Shopping Centers. He believed strongly in philanthropy and supported many causes both locally and nationally.
After John's retirement, he and Marty moved to Rancho Santa Fe, where they continued to leave a lasting impression. His friends were as numerous as they were appreciative of his unfailing humor and unapproachable integrity, and he made new ones with the same energy and enthusiasm with which he preserved his old ones.
He was a devoted husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, and loved imparting, through his famous lectures and stories, much of his wisdom. John is survived by sons John (Anne), Randy, and Jim (Sheila), three grandchildren, Jennifer Bartle (Nick), Jack Gilchrist, and Colin Gilchrist, and three great-grandchildren, Stella, John and Annabelle Bartle.
He was, as family and friends say, "a legend." Gilly will be sorely missed by all who knew him and fondly remembered for his sense of humor, generosity, intellect, and moral integrity. John left a mark on the California landscape, but left a much deeper one with all those who knew him.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent to The Elizabeth Hospice, 500 La Terraza Blvd., Suite 130, Escondido, CA 92025, Scripps Clinic Cardiology Program c/o Scripps Health Foundation, P.O. Box 2669, La Jolla, CA 92037, or a
Memorial service pending.
Published in the Los Angeles Times on Aug. 4, 2013