|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, enlisted and served in the British Air Force himself. He entered college and obtained a Masters degree in Elocution, for which he was very proud.
In the early 1950s, Under his stage name "Mickie Gill" he was trained as a professional dancer and performed on the theatrical stage in London. The highlight of his stage career was dancing in "Summer Song" with Sally Ann Howes. By the early 1960's he decided to change careers and went back to school and trained as an English butler and chauffeur. His first position as butler and driver was personal valet to actor Lawrence Harvey, a position he held for over 7 years.
His older sister Angela moved to Canada in 1959 to marry in Calgary. Michael 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. During this time, he was on a television show and became an "English Butler for a Week" for an American family who won a contest, a job he enjoyed greatly.
Michael became butler to the Chief of Protocol of the City of San Francisco, Cyril Magnin, in 1970. Mr. Magnin was heir to the I. Magnin fortune, C.E.O. of the Amfac Corporation and a familiar face in the city. Michael could be seen walking Cyril's dog "Tippycanoe" around Huntington Park on Nob Hill during the 1970s. Michael served many high-level 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. It came to be that having Michael serve your party was something to brag about.
During this time, he served 2 U.S. presidents: Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter and such luminaries as Queen Elizabeth II, Tennesse Ernie Ford, Beverly Sills, Vivian Vance, Clint Eastwood, and countless other celebrities.
After service to Mr. Magnin, Michael went to work at the Ice House Design Center, near Levi Plaza, for a couple of years, as a waiter in their luncheon cafe. Michael moved to 50 Laguna Street (in the Lower Haight neighborhood) in 1975, where he lived for the next 12 years… by then, he was working exclusively in private catering. He kept very busy because he was so popular with the society clients he developed in Pacific Heights, Nob Hill, and Sea Cliff.
In 1977 Michael took 2 weeks off to visit Washington, DC, New York City and Toronto. He saw 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, Ontario Place, and Niagara Falls.
That same year in Pebble Beach, he worked at a private 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 enjoyed having a late dinner 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, tour the International Harvester factory, visit the Air Force Museum, and to see the famed local theater company. He went on to Chicago to shop 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 them 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. He was thrilled to be able to meet and exchange a few words with Her Majesty and when he Michael had to return to the kitchen with some serving pieces in hand, it was Prince Philip himself who opened the door for Michael.
In 1986, Michael traveled to Vancouver, British Columbia, and visited the 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 with his sister Angela's family on their Catalina 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 late 1980s, Michael worked freelance for Ann Bennett, Paula LaDuc, Rick's 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. 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. Over the years, he organized shows and musical numbers to help AIDS patients and hospices. 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 hosted on Nob Hill. Cyril Magnin and over 100 others attended this affair. It was brilliant that he was now the center of attention at such a grand party. 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. He would remember that time the most restful and relaxing of his life.
Missing his old friends, Michael returned to San Francisco in August of 1989, but it was just in time for the big Loma Prieta earthquake, which did major damage to the new Sutter Street apartment he had just moved into. A month later, he caught pneumonia. which he couldn't shake and upon getting a checkup, was diagnosed with AIDS.
Two of Michael's favorite clients, Mr. Al Wilsey and Ms. Ann Bennett generously stepped in and became his patrons who made sure he could live in his own home with nursing care for the duration. At that time, there was no effective medication against the disease. He was admitted to S.F. General Hospital and volunteered to test new drugs against the disease, which he didn't have to. Some made him feel better, others made him feel worse, but he felt he was helping others in the tests. He was finally well enough to be sent home in May, 1990, but a few months later, had a sudden seizure. He was rushed back to S.F. General, where he was found to have a non-malignant brain tumor unrelated to HIV. He was successfully operated on, but because he was so weak from medication and the disease, his health and spirits declined further. He was sent to Laguna Honda Hospital. At Christmas in 1990, singer Frankie Laine came to the hospital and sang his hit songs for the patients, which helped to cheer up Michael and the patients a great deal.
Sadly, 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 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 served as 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. Michael was memorialized on the Names Project Quilt. His panel 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. 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 90 people attended the 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, seeing him in crowd scenes on television or greeting them in his English accent. Michael loved to "look after" people and it seems he has kept that promise to this day.
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 a remarkably humble and vibrant life and the countless people he brought a smile to.
The feature film "When the World Came to San Francisco", about the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, is dedicated to Michael's memory. (bio by: Christian)
Michael John Robert Gill
Note: The marker is solid brass mounted directly on a wooden cabinet containing the urn and is perpetually cared for on a regular basis.
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
Always on my mind, dear friend. God bless you!|
Added: Aug. 9, 2017
Always in my thoughts.|
Added: Jul. 8, 2017
Thinking of you today, my friend. Sending you blessings and love. I'm a better person having known you.|
Added: Mar. 14, 2017
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