JOHN DAVID MCGANN
John David McGann, PhD.
The life of JD (David) McGann, age 86, came to a peaceful close at West Vancouver Care Home, on Nov 16, 2010. Predeceased by his beloved wife of 25 years, Hannie, brother Aubrey, parents Simon and Mary. He will be greatly missed by Marjolyn, his partner of the last 18 years, brother Brian (Bobbi), daughters Lisa and Erin (Greg) and grandchildren Elvis, Ariel, Xavier, Willem, Tanner, Hansy and Uma. He will also live on in the hearts and memories of his extended family and friends.
Born October 1, 1924 in New Haven Connecticut, to Simon Aubrey McGann Sr. and Mary White McGann. David attended Cheshire Academy in Cheshire Connecticut where he was an outstanding athlete. He set school records in track and field, as well as being a good amateur boxer, a skill which proved useful in altercations with his brothers or defending them from the depredations of others.
Volunteering for the services before graduation, David became a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne regiment. Landing in a glider behind enemy lines in Holland as part of Operation Market Garden and cut off from his main group with two fellow soldiers, he was thrice wounded in fierce fighting and reported missing in action before being repatriated by the Dutch resistance. Decorated for bravery, he was sent to England to recover from his wounds until discharged after the war whereupon he returned to America to resume his academic career.
Enrolling at William and Mary College in Virginia, he transferred to the University of Connecticut completing a graduate degree, then on to Boston University where he obtained a Doctorate in Child Psychology. David worked at the well known Perkins Institute for the blind in Boston, where he refined techniques for helping the advancement of blind and deaf children.
Married July 7th 1956 to Johanna Willhelmina van Kretschmar, (Hannie) in Vienna Virginia, they started a family and moved west to Billings with David accepting a teaching position at the University of Montana. In 1961 the family emigrated to Canada where David assumed a position at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver in a new program, assimilating handicapped children into public schools of their own community.
Davids’ belief in the importance of strong community organizations lead to becoming director of the Vancouver Foundation, a position he held until his retirement in 1988. He is remembered for his consummate listening skills over numerous cups of tea with representatives of many organizations as he strove to balance competing interests with finite resources.
Well known for a quick wit, irascible sense of humour and innate Yankee trading skills, which he demonstrated at an early age, trapping skunk and muskrat in winter and storing skins in the family garage for sale to local merchants. David loved a good story and was quick with a rejoinder, a skill honed during annual fishing trips with old friends to a camp in the interior of British Columbia. His inclination to not dwell on the past and to look forward to the next project was best captured during an outing in Sri Lanka when a pair of adolescent elephants charged the car David was driving; instructed in somewhat concerned tones to back down the road, his reply was “but I’m not sure I can go in reverse”.
A lover of wide open spaces, David commuted for 28 years from his hobby farm in Bradner, in the Fraser Valley to downtown Vancouver. He enjoyed living in the country and the many projects that came with a hobby farm including running an aging tractor and maintaining a meticulously stacked wood pile. In 1995 he moved to Salt Spring Island, where he lived in peace for 15 years.
The cumulative effects of a stroke and related setbacks over the past seven years resulted in David spending the last months of his life in the tender care of the staff at the West Vancouver Care Home where he enjoyed visits from family and friends on the sunny south facing deck. At his final birthday luncheon held at the Vancouver Club, he made a short speech that concluded with: “My heart is full, and so is my stomach”. RIP David.
A grave side memorial attended by immediate family was held on Salt Spring Island on November 19th. A life celebration and dedication of a memorial project is planned for Spring 2011 on Salt Spring Island.
Donations to the Institute for the Blind, Heart and Stroke Foundation and Vancouver Opera graciously accepted.