|Birth: ||Apr. 22, 1928|
|Death: ||Feb. 10, 1991|
San Francisco County
Michael J. R. Gill was born in Braintree, Essex, England. He was the son of Dr. Gill, a country physician and a genuine "lady", Molly Gibbs. His great grandfather was Sir Cecil Trevor who was on the court of Queen Victoria. As a boy during World War 2, he was chosen "mascot of the day" at a British Air Base, and 10 years later served in the Air Force himself.
He obtained a Masters degree in Elocution, for which he was very proud. After his military discharge in the early 1950's, Michael trained as a dancer on the theatrical stage in London. The highlight was dancing in "Summer Song" with Sally Ann Howes. His stage name was "Mickie Gill". By the early 1960's he changed careers and went to school to become an English butler and trained chauffeur. His first position was as butler and driver to the great actor Lawrence Harvey, a position he held for over 7 years.
His older sister Angela came to Canada in 1959 to be married in Calgary. He came to the United States to be closer to her and served as butler to the Marquise de Pins at Beaulieu Vineyard in Napa Valley for the next several years.
Highlights of his career were to have served 2 U.S. presidents: Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter and such luminaries as Queen Elizabeth II, Phil Harris, Tennesse Ernie Ford, Arnold Palmer, Beverly Sills, Vivian Vance, Clint Eastwood, and countless other celebrities.
Michael became butler for Cyril Magnin in San Francisco in 1972. Mr. Magnin was heir to the I. Magnin fortune, C.E.O. of Amfac Corporation and was Chief of Protocol of the City for many years. Michael served many incredible dinner parties for the "rich and famous" and became a fixture at the best events in the city during the 1970's and 80's. Michael could be seen walking Cyril's dog "Tippycanoe" around Huntington Park on Nob Hill during the early 1970s.
He adored show music and often sang songs from Broadway. He enjoyed live theater and often could be found at the Geary or Curran Theaters watching a musical or enjoying Peter Mintun playing piano on Nob Hill. After working for Cyril Magnin, Michael went to work at the Ice House Design Center in 1975 for a couple of years as a waiter in the glassed-in restaurant between buildings. Then for a summer at Dodgies Cafe on Union near Steiner.
He loved to travel and often visited his sister Angela in Vancouver, British Columbia. He had some memorable vacations during his life in California he re-lived over and over.. the first was 2 weeks in 1973 when he drove down the California coast from San Francisco to Los Angeles and enjoyed the beaches, Marineland and Disneyland. Another one in 1974 when he went to Redondo Beach, Hollywood and enjoyed the sights and sounds of West L.A.
Michael moved to 50 Laguna Street (in the Lower Haight neighborhood) in 1975, where he lived for the next 12 years and continued to work in private catering. He kept very busy because he was so popular with the society clients he developed.
In 1977 when he took 2 weeks off to visit Washington, DC, New York City and Toronto. He went to see the Smithsonian, Ford's Theater and memorials in D.C. He stayed at the Pick-Lee House Hotel, dined at the Capital Room and the Mayflower Hotel. He then took the first class Amtrak MetroClub train to New York to see "The Sound of Music" at St. Barts Playhouse on Park Avenue. He stayed at the Waldorf-Astoria and dined at "Peacock Alley" and at the "Edwardian Room" at the Plaza. He continued to Toronto and saw the sites, including the CN Tower and also Niagara Falls.
That same year at Pebble Beach, he worked a party hosted by Alice Faye. She was told he had been on stage at one time as a dancer, so Ms. Faye pulled Michael to the dance floor after the party and waltzed with him to "Hello Dolly", then later ate dinner in the kitchen with him to talk about HIS former career.
In 1980 he visited New York on the Amtrak train in a cross country trip and stopped in Springfield, Ohio (his second visit to that city) for a few days to enjoy the grand homes and to see the local theater company. He went on to Chicago and spent the day on Michigan Avenue before returning to San Francisco.
He worked many parties for the British Consulate and in April 1982, he had a dream come true when Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip came to San Francisco on a state visit. Michael was thrilled to be able to serve at the consulate welcome party. Though living in the United States as a permanent resident, Michael never became an American citizen. For the rest of his life, he remained a British subject and often spoke of his love for the queen and the royal family. On that occasion he was able to meet and exchange a few words with Her Majesty and when he had to return to the kitchen, it was Prince Philip himself who opened the door for Michael.
In 1986, he traveled to Vancouver, British Columbia, and visited his sister and family during Expo 86 World's Fair. He had an amazing time seeing the pavilions, eating great food and riding the roller coaster. The English, Russian, and Italian Pavilions were great favorites. He was fortunate to see a rare aurora borealis display one night. He also sailed the bay in his brother-in-law's sailboat.
He met the actress Ann-Margaret and in conversation found they were both born in April, and she remarked that he had the same shade of green eyes she did (a story he told often). During the 1980s, Michael worked freelance for Ann Bennett, Paula LaDuc, and Taste Catering firms. He worked for the best.
Michael was not the stereotypical English butler since he had a great sense of humor and loved to laugh. He often made funny faces and in his private life was the life of the party wherever he was invited. He had countless friends. At the same time, he was compassionate and generous to a fault and truly loved people. He would often volunteer to cook dinner, wash dishes or in an instant ask to help in any way he could if someone was overwhelmed with something. For more than a year, Michael cooked breakfast for senior citizens at the Church of the Advent in San Francisco every Saturday morning.
Michael retired in 1987 and prior to moving to San Diego, he had a "going away" party. Cyril Magnin and many others attended his party on Nob Hill. Michael enjoyed 2 great years relaxing and bicycling around Mission Bay in Pacific Beach in San Diego. He had a walk-on part in the movie "K-9" with Jim Belushi and met the stars of that film. That time was probably the most restful and relaxing time of his life.
He returned to San Francisco in August of 1989 because he missed his old friends, but it was just in time for the big Loma Prieta earthquake, which did major damage to his modest Sutter Street apartment. A month later, he caught pneumonia and quickly fell victim to AIDS.
Two of Michael's favorite clients, Mr. Al Wilsey and Ms. Ann Bennett generously became his patrons and made sure he could live in his own home with nursing care during the his final months, for there was no medication against the disease at that time. He went to S.F. General Hospital and was involved in testing drugs against AIDS. He was finally well enough to be sent home in May, 1990, for which Michael was deeply grateful, but a few months later, he had a sudden seizure. He was rushed back to S.F. General, where he was diagnosed with a non-malignant brain tumor unrelated to HIV. He was successfully operated on, but because he was so weak from treatment, his health declined further.
Michael died less than a year and a half after the earthquake. He was a devout and proud Episcopalian and so his funeral service was held at the chapel in Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill on February 22nd, within a block or two of some of the most fantastic parties he served. Over 200 people attended his funeral, including some of the most prominent citizens of the city whom he had served over the years. His dearest friend R. Christian Anderson gave the eulogy and was pallbearer. At Michael's request, "Nearer My God to Thee" and "Jerusalem" (both heard in the 1936 movie "San Francisco") were played on the organ at his service. Because of the generosity of his family and friends, Michael was immediately interred in the Cathedral Columbarium. After the funeral service, "Taste Catering", had a celebration of Michael's life at Grosvenor Towers across the street. Over 100 people attended this elaborate party. This would have pleased Michael greatly. At 7 pm that same night, the bells in the tower of the cathedral sounded for Michael.
Since Michael has passed, several friends and some who didn't even know him in life, have reported seeing him walking along sidewalks or greeting them in his English accent. Michael loved to "look after" people and it seems he has kept that promise to this day. His loving spirit still "looks after us".
Michael is memorialized on the Names Project Quilt. His panel of the quilt was made prior to his death and unknown to him, laid next to his bed when he was so ill. It was displayed in Grace Cathedral at his funeral service prior to it being sent and sewn into the main quilt itself, where it is now held.
Michael was survived by his sister Angela and brother-in-law Jack, his niece Vivian McGie and his nephew John McGie and grand-niece Brittany of North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, his dearest friend Christian, his extended family, and countless friends and colleagues who miss this wonderful, funny and hopelessly generous man to this day. Michael's life won't be defined by how he died, but rather how he lived an remarkably humble, enjoyable and vibrant life and the many he brought a smile to.
Michael John Robert Gill
Grace Cathedral Columbarium
San Francisco County
Plot: Columbarium In the North Tower just to the right, behind the altar.
Created by: Christian
Record added: Dec 11, 2002
Find A Grave Memorial# 7004519
A very lovely obituary. A most interesting life, and it is my loss that I did not know him.|
Added: Mar. 5, 2014
HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY! Dear Michael,I do miss the pleasure of your company. You made everyone happy with your infectuous smile.|
Added: Feb. 12, 2014
Think of you often dear Michael,and remember what a fine and kind gentleman you were. We feel your presence every day.|
Added: Feb. 7, 2014
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