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Life Story / Obituary
Reliable, loving, and kind, Tom McGaw lived a humble life rich in family and friendship. An old-fashioned gentleman, Tom lived to serve others; his generosity and care knew no bounds. Selfless and wise, Tom gave freely, loved wholly, and celebrated each day he was given. In so doing, he taught by example how to live a wholehearted life. A devoted father, grandfather, and friend, Tom will long be remembered by all who were blessed to share time with him.
1950 was the start of fast changes that would be witnessed for the following two decades. As the Great Depression was becoming a faint memory, families moved to the suburbs. Kids watched Howdy Doody on 12-inch black and white TV sets and spent Saturday afternoons watching cartoons at Cinema matinees. Times were gentler as the nation’s focus was on family and hope for a brighter future. Nowhere was there more hope than in Battle Creek, Michigan as Tom’s parents, Darwin and Adeline, welcomed their son into their hearts and home on October 14th.
The youngest of the McGaw’s four children, Tom enjoyed a youth filled with the good company of his three older sisters, Pat, Kathy, and Sandi. Tom’s father died when he was just six years old. Years later, his mother married Ralph Parrish. While Tom spent some of his school years in Kalamazoo, where he made many friends, he graduated from Lakeview High School in 1968. He later earned his associate’s degree from Kellogg Community College in 1977.
Like many young men in his generation, Tom’s first job was as a neighborhood paperboy. As an adult, he held jobs as a cement truck driver and a cook at a restaurant. He also worked for a time at a pump manufacturing plant. Eventually, Tom settled into a long career working as an accountant first for Michigan National Bank, then First of America, and finally for the City of Kalamazoo, where he retired.
On September 24, 1977, Tom married Julie Mote. The couple began their 26-year marriage in Battle Creek, Michigan and moved to Lansing shortly after. In time, they were blessed to welcome two beautiful daughters, Sarah in 1986 and Rachel in 1992, into their family. Though Tom wasn’t certain he wanted children, Sarah and Rachel instantly had his heart, and he long shared that fatherhood was his life’s greatest gift. To say that Tom was smitten by his girls would be an understatement. He absolutely relished in fatherhood and strove to be the best dad he could be. The family moved to Portage in 1991 where Tom worked to provide a loving home for his family. He never missed any of the girls’ events and was easily the proudest father at their recitals, games, and band concerts. He even volunteered to coach some of their teams. With determination and skill, Tom lovingly built a swingset in the backyard where the girls played for hours and hours. It was tradition in the McGaw home for Tom to pack the girls’ lunches each day. They could always look forward to their dad’s choices of sandwiches, chips, and cookies; their lunches were often a delicious reflection of their father’s sweet tooth!. A patient guide, Tom taught the girls to ride a bike and took Sarah to the dentist to help her be brave. Halloween trick-or-treating was always guaranteed fun for the girls and their father. Nothing was too much to ask when it came to Tom’s daughters. Once he even drove up to Grand Rapids during an ice storm to purchase the 101 Dalmations skirt one of the girls had to have that wouldn’t arrive in time for her birthday. Tom always made sure the girls were safe and looked after.
As the girls were growing up, Tom enjoyed taking family vacations with them. Sea World, Disney, Navy Pier, Mackinac, the Mystery Spot, and Mall of America afforded many treasured memories for all. Tom also enjoyed passing his love of cards onto the girls. Every year he’d buy each of his daughters two decks of cards. They also grew up witnessing their dad’s love for the MSU Spartans! They quickly learned their dad’s dry sense of humor and the delight of his loud laugh.
Not only did Tom enjoy raising his daughters, he also enjoyed watching them forge their own paths as they grew into adulthood. Sharing in their day to day lives as well as witnessing their dreams come true afforded Tom a deep sense of pride and contentment. As their lives came to include the men they loved, Tom felt the joy of his family growing and the comfort of knowing his daughters were loved and respected as they should be. Soon Sarah and Philip married and blessed Tom with the gift of grandchildren; Madelyn and Oliver were truly Tom’s heart’s delight, and he loved giving them num-nums. Tom also appreciated the way his daughters helped him grow his experiences. Never much of a “pet person,” when it came to his daughters, he never hesitated to help care for their treasured pups.
A man of many interests, Tom loved reading. He especially enjoyed the newspaper and books about history and politics. James Patterson was one of his favorite authors. Finance and investment also intrigued Tom. He was an active member of an investment club and served as its treasurer. He enjoyed the music of his youth, especially the Beatles. Tom was also a regular at Hooters where he often met friends and former co-workers for lunch. Tom was a master of good deals! He never overpaid for things, but often ended up with more than he needed to secure the deal. He made sure to text the girls when ice-cream or Dr. Pepper was on sale. While he wasn’t much of a gambler, he enjoyed the opportunity to take day trips with friends to the casino. Tom was also fascinated with his family tree and spent hours researching his lineage. And then, there was his lawn! Oh, how Tom loved to mow his lawn. It was actually one of his favorite ways to spend his retirement. He would even text his girls about it several times a week. With his gift for detail, he knew his girls’ favorite colors, Sarah’s is purple, and Rachel’s is pink, and made sure to wear it when visiting them. Once he learned what a friend or family member was interested in, he’d make sure to get at least two for them!
Without a doubt, the sudden absence of Tom’s steadfast presence has created a deep sense of uncertainty. May it afford comfort to know that we carry the best of his legacy in our own lives. Each time we lend a hand to our neighbors, snag a BOGO, enjoy a meal with friends, or don our loved one’s favorite color, we celebrate the many ways we have been blessed by this good man’s great life.
Thomas Darwin McGaw, of Portage, age 67, died unexpectedly at his home on June 30, 2018. Preceded in death by his parents, Darwin McGaw and Adeline Parrish, and by his sister, Patricia (Ron) Bowman. Surviving are his two treasured daughters: Sarah (Philip) Johnson and Rachel McGaw (Eric Boyer); his beloved grandchildren: Madelyn (3) and Oliver (1) Johnson; sisters: Kathy (Ken) Holley and Sandi Pearce and many nieces and nephews. Cremation will take place. Services will be held Friday 4 pm at Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Dr. Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900 followed by a reception in the Life Story Center. Please visit Tom’s personal web page at www.BetzlerFuneralHome.com, where you can read his story, archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made to American Cancer Society.