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George McCutchen "Mac" Gardner


1922 - 2013 Obituary Condolences Gallery
GEORGE MCCUTCHEN "MAC" GARDNER George McCutchen "Mac" Gardner was only four years old when he first saw an airplane. A troupe of "barnstormer" stunt pilots put on an airshow for the residents of his hometown of Unionville, Missouri. When Mac set eyes on the biplanes swooping overhead, performing barrel rolls and loops, he was hooked. "I want to go up in one of those," he announced to his family. Mac's parents weren't so sure that was a good idea, but his grandmother, Isa Eva (Guffey) McCutchen, was on Mac's side--and she was a very determined woman. She contacted the barnstormers and arranged for them to take Mac on an airplane ride for his fifth birthday. When the pilot took Mac for his first airplane ride, he thought it would be fun to give the kid a scare. He really put that plane through its paces, doing every trick he knew. He tried his best to make the boy sick, but Mac was born to fly. Far from being discouraged or frightened, Mac considered that flight to be the greatest experience of his young life. From that moment on, he was sure it was his destiny to be a pilot, an avocation he cherished throughout his life. The eldest son of Isabella Fay (McCutchen) and Henry Christopher Gardner, Mac was born in Kansas City, Missouri, on May 12, 1922, and was named after his grandfather George Everett McCutchen, who died only days after his birth. Despite the pressures of the Great Depression, Henry and Fay Gardner operated two successful local businesses, the Farmers Bank of Unionville and McCutchen & Son, farm loans. Mac enjoyed a bucolic childhood with his younger brothers John "Jack" Robert Gardner (1927-1999) and Charles "Ginger" Everett Gardner (1929-1972), and an endless array of dogs and ponies, his favorite being a white pony named Chalk. The bombing of Pearl Harbor and subsequent declarations of war changed Mac's life forever. He rushed to complete his degree in business administration at Parks Air College and applied for Navy flight training. Ultimately, he was deployed as a Lt. JG to the Pacific Theater where he served as a pilot in Bombing Squadron 89 on the aircraft carrier Antietam. He gained such admiration for the leadership of Admiral William Halsey that he later named his beloved Boxer dog after him. After VJ-Day, Mac flew his Curtiss SB2C dive bomber on patrol missions along the Great Wall of China in support of Chiang Kai-Shek's Taiwanese government. Like many young men serving in the war, Mac left behind an adored new wife when he was deployed. He first met Shirley Ann McKim (of Burlington, Iowa) when they were 15 years old and she was visiting relatives in Unionville. He was so taken with the sight of her that he contrived to garner an introduction later that day. The two corresponded and dated for the next several years, and married on February 11, 1945. They were married for 65 years, until Shirley's death on March 21, 2010. After the war, Mac worked for Mid-Continent Airlines and later for Braniff International Airways in the south and midwest. He and Shirley began a family, and are survived by their son Michael Christopher Gardner, Ward One City Council Representative of Riverside; and their daughters Ann (Gardner) Nemer of Claremont; Lynn McCutchen Gardner of Newport Beach; and Sheila (Gardner) Coyazo, of Redondo Beach. Mac's beloved mother Fay's untimely death from cancer in 1956 radically altered the direction of his professional career. Heartbroken, Mac was urged by his wife to volunteer for the American Cancer Society (ACS). He quickly rose in the ranks from volunteer to employee, leaving behind his career in the airline industry to concentrate full-time on fundraising for ACS. Though the job required a great deal of travel, Mac was dedicated to the cause and never forgot that his work could help to prevent the kind of loss his family had experienced. After moves for ACS to Portland, Oregon, and Oakland, California, Mac settled in Riverside in 1973 as Director of Area IV, the largest of the six regions in the California Division. Mac and Shirley loved their mid-century modern Riverside home, designed by Bolton C. Moise, Jr. They greatly enjoyed trips to far-flung destinations including the British Isles, Scandinavian fjords, New Zealand, Italy, Portugal, pre-Revolutionary Cuba, and Communist Yugoslavia. Some of their favorite excursions were simple camping and backpacking trips in the high Sierra. Mac was unfailingly generous to friends, family, and progressive candidates and causes. One neighbor recalled him showing up at her door to repair something for her in his tuxedo, hammer in hand; he was on the way out but was determined to help her first. Mac died peacefully in his home on August, 11, 2013. He and Shirley were interred at the Riverside National Cemetery. In addition to his four children, Mac is survived by eight grandchildren: grandson Christopher Michael Gardner, of Ventura; step-grandson Scott Golz, of Riverside; granddaughter Elizabeth Anne Grainger, of Riverside, who was his devoted companion and caregiver for the last several years of his life; and grandsons Ross McKim Grainger, of Chandler, Arizona; Joseph Gardner Coyazo, of Redondo Beach, who was also a loving caregiver for almost two years; Thomas Turner Multari, of Newport Beach; Andrew Gardner Multari, of Irvine; and Gian Paul Multari, of Moraga. Step-grandson Grant Golz preceded him in death in 2006. Mac is also survived by several great-grandchildren. In recognition of Mac and Shirley's love of the natural world, the Gardner family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the George M. and Shirley M. Gardner fund at The Yosemite Conservancy, http://www.yosemiteconservancy.org/gifts-memory or 1-800-469-7275.
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Published in Press-Enterprise on Sept. 20, 2013
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