Raymond Michael McGrath
Raymond Michael McGrath, age 71, of San Francisco, California, died on November 11, 2020, after a long-fought battle with cancer and its after affects. Raymond was born in Oak Park, Illinois, to Raymond and Madeleine McGrath in 1949. He graduated from Notre Dame Grade School in Duneland Beach, Indiana, Elston Senior High School in Michigan City, Indiana, and scaled the wall to freedom after a short relationship with the University of San Francisco. Raymond married Karen Snell in 1996. He has two sons, Mahon and Sean, with his former partner Sarah Tannehill.
Raymond was a Renaissance Man of intellect and wit. Although he never lost his devotion to the Midwest's Fighting Irish, he had a restless and adventurous streak that brought him to San Francisco in 1968. In his short time at USF, Raymond made lifelong friends, including the members of his college band, Cold Turkey. After his escape from the Jesuits, Raymond played drums professionally for several years including with Light Year, a jazz fusion band that has released two albums. Raymond eventually stopped touring to spend more time with his two sons, working as a janitor at the Cannery, as a member of the Pipefitter's Union at Hunter's Point shipyard, and providing security for Cesar Chavez.
In 1978, Raymond became a private investigator. He conducted investigations into murder, arson, child kidnapping, rape, extortion, and fraud. After learning his trade under the tutelage of well-known investigator Jack Webb, he opened his own firm in 1988. His work has encompassed both civil and criminal litigation. In addition to the U.S., Raymond conducted investigations in France, Hong Kong, mainland China and Ireland.
As a young father, Raymond developed unique parenting skills, feeding his sons canned hamburger and telling them that if they did not behave he would tie them to the wings of an airplane. Despite all this, they grew into amazing men, following in his artistic footsteps.
The Troubles in Ireland shaped Raymond's political worldview and laid the groundwork for a meeting that would transform his personal life. In 1994, as the lead investigator for Kevin Barry Artt, Paul Brennan and Terence Kirby, political prisoners who were fighting extradition after escaping from Northern Ireland's notorious Long Kesh Prison in the biggest jailbreak in the history of Great Britain, Raymond met Karen Snell, the federal public defender for a fourth escapee, Jimmy Smyth. The cases were a cause celebre in San Francisco's tight-knit Irish community and when the two became an item their relationship became one, too. Both causes triumphed: In a deal worked out by the Clinton administration, Smyth returned to Ireland to serve a brief sentence but received a guarantee of eligibility for parole and no additional punishment or charges while Artt, Brennan, and Kirby were allowed to remain in the United States. And, in 1996, Raymond and Karen were married. While Karen and Raymond didn't care for the same music and Raymond thought hikes and picnics buggy and unnecessarily exertive, they were soulmates who shared a world view and a fierce love of family, their many friends, and each other.
In 1995 Raymond was diagnosed with throat cancer. While recovering from his surgery, he watched the formation of the International Criminal Court on television and wondered whether anyone had thought about establishing standards for training the people who would conduct the complex investigations that would be required. Finding room for improvement, Raymond conceptualized and cofounded the Institute for International Criminal Investigations, headquartered in The Hague. Since its inception, the IICI has trained and mentored more than a thousand investigators across the world in the hard skills and techniques necessary to acquire evidence of a standard which will stand up to scrutiny in criminal courts, human rights commissions and elsewhere, and allow perpetrators of mass atrocities to be brought to justice. As Raymond wrote, "Our particular goal is modest, but indispensable: while we cannot change the political climate, we can train investigators to the highest standards, so that when the day of reckoning finally comes for the worst humanity has to offer, as it almost always does, the best of what humanity has to offer will be ready." In 2010, Raymond was named a Fellow of the Purpose Prize, awarded to Americans who make a significant contribution to social progress in their second careers.
In his spare time, Raymond wrote clever and insightful children's books (as yet unpublished) like The Childsnatchers, about an 11-year old detective named Pinkerton Pembertox who solved international crimes, and I Was a Teenage Ghost for the FBI, about a girl killed in a drive by shooting who helped the FBI find her shooter.
All who knew Raymond appreciated his storytelling and dry wit and felt profound loss when radiation-related injuries took his ability to speak in 2015. Technology helped, and so did his expressive face – most recently on animated display as the Fighting Irish pulled out a win in double overtime against Clemson.
Raymond is survived by his wife Karen Snell, sons Mahon Eammon McGrath and Sean Connolly McGrath, daughter-in-law Natalie Purcell, and grandson Miles McGrath; his siblings Madeleine Gallagher, John, Jay, Mary, Roch, Sarah and Matthew McGrath, their spouses and partners, and many brilliant and talented nieces and nephews.
If friends desire, memorial contributions can be made to the International Institute for Criminal Investigations, https://iici.global/
Covid permitting, we will hold a memorial celebration of Raymond's life on November 11, 2021. An announcement will be made to family and friends.