In Memoriam

DURHAM -- Andrew Gramling McGill, 81, died Tuesday, March 8 -- two days before the third anniversary of the death of his wife, Barbara.

He leaves his daughters, Deborah and Linda; his granddaughter, Anna Pleasants Burroughs, and Anna's father, Tom Burroughs; his son-in-law, Hassan Bustillo, and the Bustillo children; and his dear friend, Becky Roberts.

He also leaves the children of his brother, Ira Leon McGill, who died in 1979: Deanna Livingston, Susan Seiple, Martha McGill, Julie Kopp, Andrew Gramling McGill, and their families.

His nephew, Ira Leon McGill, died in 1994.

Gram was born and raised in Laurinburg, North Carolina. His mother, Aileen Gramling McGill, taught algebra at Scotland County High School for 50 years. During World War II she was the high-school principal.

His father, Ira Leon McGill, carried mail by mule in France during World War I and later became Laurinburg's postmaster.

Gram was educated in Laurinburg's public schools, The Citadel, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, from which he graduated in 1951 with a degree in business administration.

He married Bobbie that summer and soon they settled in Durham, her hometown. Bobbie started teaching and Gram went to work for his father-in-law, S.E. Dennis, at Dennis Motor Service.

The company sold gas, towed and repaired cars, and did some light construction with a crane that Sam Dennis had rigged up. The crane caught Gram's interest and over the years he put together a fleet of them.

By the time Sam and he sold the business in 1986, Dennis Equipment Rental, Inc. had contributed much to the growth of Durham, Research Triangle Park, and the universities here.

A Dennis Equipment operator had the delicate task of lifting and setting in place UNC's first computer -- a Univac that was measurable in tons and square yards. The company also helped to build IBM on the RTP campus and Blue Cross/Blue Shield's glass parallelogram on the Chapel Hill road.

Gram was as serious about play as he was about business. He was a gifted athlete who loved tennis, golf, swimming, scuba diving, surfing, skiing, basketball, soccer, Frisbee, softball -- until his mid-70s, whatever friendly game was on, he was in.

He was a smooth dancer and kept that up nearly to the end.

He thrived on adventure, and sought it by learning to fly (airplanes and gliders), sail, ride, and paddle. Gram also found adventure in the imagination of others, and so he was a great attender who filled his evenings with symphony, opera, jazz, blues, bluegrass, theater, movies: he didn't want to miss a thing.

One afternoon this past fall he asked his daughter's opinion of some bands lined up to play at Cat's Cradle (a club she'd never visited).

When she said she wasn't familiar with any of them, he proceeded to tell her what he thought of the ones he'd heard and why he wanted to check out the others.

He was a lifelong student whose delight in words, facts, and ideas is evident in the notes that filled the diary he always kept in his pocket.

That delight was also evident in the attention he paid to his family, friends, and random strangers (many of whom became part of his circle). Gram's laugh filled every room.

It's hard to describe Gram without moving into the realm of myth, and that does him a disservice. He had a habit of being late and keeping people waiting, he could be inattentive to those closest to him, and he could be so caught up in a story about his exploits that he failed to notice that a different story was on someone else's lips waiting to be told.

The many people who loved him knew his failings and loved him anyway. To name them all here would take more space than there is in this newspaper.

Gram was grateful for the richness they brought to his life. Gram's family is thankful to these friends, and to the brilliant and compassionate healers at Duke University Medical Center and Watts Street Baptist Church who blessed him and us.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 12, 2011 at Watts Street Baptist Church. Officiating will be Rev. Mel Williams and Rev. Diane Eubanks Hill. A private inurnment will take place at Maplewood Cemetery.

The family will receive visitors Friday evening from 5 to 8 p.m. at Croasdaile Country Club.

In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate memorials in Gram's name to Watts Street Baptist Church, the Durham Rescue Mission, or the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The McGill family is under the care of Howerton & Bryan Funeral Home.

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