Raymond McGrath
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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.

Published in San Francisco Chronicle from Nov. 20 to Nov. 22, 2020.
Memories & Condolences
Guest Book sponsored by Duggan's Serra Mortuary
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7 entries
November 26, 2020
Karen, Mahon, Sean, Sarah, Geri. My heart is crushed for you. Sending my love to you, and remembering many happy times.
November 26, 2020
Karen, Mahon, Sean, Sarah, Geri. My heart is crushed for you. Sending my thoughts, and remembering many happy times.

November 24, 2020
It is with great sadness that we heard the news of our dear friend Raymond's passing an old saying over here in Belfast is our friend Ray has went up the road before us,when we meet up with him again he will tell us of the adventures he had on his journey and there will be that wicked smile of his as he tells his stories and draws you in as though your the only other one there. We met Ray many years ago in Belfast and had the pleasure of his and his close friend Geri Webb in our home for a time every time we met up for years after Ray would still talk about the irradiated peas I served up with dinner he couldn't get over their colour. Raymond was a great man for the craic he came from an ancient Celtic tradition of the seanchaì the story tellers for Ray was a great and talented storyteller. Deepest sympathy to Ray's wife Karen on the loss of her soulmate also his sons Mahon Sean and their families, to Ray's friends especially Geri our sincere sympathies.
Ann Morgan
November 23, 2020
Very saddened to here the news of Ray’s passing, I always liked Ray, his humor and kindness and witty personality, he was dads top investigator for many years and very respected . Ray cracked some great cases with dad and team, I enjoyed as a young kid watching the real to reel films in Dads home office from there stake outs, there was one film if I recall Correctly, Ray is pretending like he a Foreigner as he was interviewing a butcher.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to your whole family in this difficult time .
Dennis & Annette Webb
Dennis Webb
November 23, 2020
Raymond (Zach) was a good drummer when I met him in San Francisco. He always made me laugh. He was my late brother in law’s , Steve Torretta’s, best friend. I feel it a privilege to know him the little I did; truly a unique and amazing man. My deepest condolences go out to Karen , Sarah, his boys and the whole family. He will be missed. He was truly loved.
Mary Shields Aiken
November 21, 2020
It is with great sadness that I heard of Ray's passing.I would like to offer my deepest sympathies to Raymond's family and friends on their loss.My memories of Ray when I first met him in San Francisco and later when he visited Belfast was of a very sharp witted and intelligent human
being.We enjoyed many humorous occasions when we caught up in very difficult times in Belfast and again in San Francisco.Rays incisive memory recalled many of those events both sad and funny.He will be greatly missed by myself and extended family.
Rosemary Cunningham
November 20, 2020
What a magnificent summation of an extraordinary life. Ray truly was the best that humanity had to offer. We will miss him and love him to the rest of our days; the Irish twinkle in his eyes, the sly smile before saying something incredibly funny, his insatiable quest to right the wrongs of this world. He left us wanting so much more time with him.
Our love to you Karen, his true life accomplice, whose love brought him the strength and courage to face each new challenge; to Mahon and Sean who brought him such joy, (we never really thought he would actually tie you to aircraft), and to the whole McGrath family. We were so blessed to have had Ramond in our lives.
Slan our treasured Friend, may we at some time, some way, some where meet again.
Love Seamus and Debbie
Seamus and Debbie Kennedy
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