Sunday, November 25, 2001

Author and actor will be
celebrated in song, prose

Gardner McKay / 1932-2001


By Tim Ryan

Gardner McKay understood the severity of the prostate cancer that had spread through his body for two years, buckling the ruggedly handsome 6-feet-5-inch actor and author under the intense pain.

He was "angry, really pissed off" about the illness that was sapping his strength from spending time with Madeleine, his wife of 20 years, and finishing his autobiography, "Journey Without A Map," a collection of vignettes from when he was born, through the Hollywood years, bachelor life, owning African lions in Hollywood, writing and living for two years in the Amazon region of Venezuela and in the Libyan desert.

McKay died Wednesday at his Koko Head home with Madeleine and brother-in-law Brian Madigan at his side. He was 69.

A "Celebration of Gardner McKay's Life" will be held from 9 a.m. to noon Dec. 8 at the Diamond Head Theatre with singing, and readings of some of McKay's writings. Madeleine will read one of the several poems McKay wrote to her.

The event is being coordinated by Michael Titterton, executive director of Hawaii Public Radio, where McKay had a weekly show from 1995-2000. Some recording sessions McKay did just three weeks before his death and the beginning of his book will also be played.

"Everyone is invited," she said. "Gardner was the most spiritual man I've ever known but not someone who believed religion had to be in buildings and churches."

McKay was cremated the day of his death. The ashes will lay beside his father's remains in a Kentucky grave, Madeleine said.

Born George Cadogan Gardner McKay in New York City, McKay starred from 1960-62 in the first television series featuring South Seas' travels, "Adventures in Paradise," created by James Michener.

He was an accomplished author writing the novels "Toyer," "The Last American" and "Trompe L'Oeil," and dozens of plays.

McKay continued to work as often as he could to finish his autobiography, dictating from his bed to his brother-in-law who typed the words into a computer.

The family knew the end was near last Sunday when McKay could only dictate two sentences.

Madeleine vows to have her husband's book published, completing it with her brother from some 40 years of her husband's notes and ledgers.

The couple married in 1980, living in Los Angeles and London for several years before moving to Hawaii in 1987.

"I was very lucky and charmed to be chosen and meet my soul mate," said Madeleine, who will remain in Hawaii.

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