Monday, January 18, 2016

Chandler (Sandy) McGaw - the art of living well. . . .

       A long time ago - or maybe it was yesterday - I was living in Norfolk, Virginia, raising kids, married to a busy doctor and maintaining a semblance of sanity by my commitment to and involvement in Community Theater.  Theater folks are a tight-knit, busy, competitive and, often very talented people.  As a former coronary care nurse and teacher from 'the North', mine was a daunting endeavor when it came to 'fitting in' with this crowd. It's always good to 'know someone' and I was fortunate via a casting decision to get to know Ms. Marty McGaw and then hubby, G.F. Rowe - sterling directors AND performers on the local boards.

       When not at the theater, theirs was the home to which we all gravitated to eat, drink, talk, LIVE theater.  A huge, old Georgian manse, encircled by a rambling wood porch, peopled by guests, family - and their friends - workmates/playmates all, seemed to always be a-buzz with activities, often unrelated but always in sync.  From this throbbing organ, one could see/follow branches leading to the rambling grounds, the pool, commanded by its house on which brightly-painted caricatures, trompes du l'oieus and witty commentary pleasantly assaulted the viewers senses.

       Beyond the pool surround, the property dropped off and ultimately landed at the base of its steep, brush-overgrown hillside - a ragged-edged rock and sand shoreline over which a long, tired-but-proudly-splintered, tar splashed dock where watercraft of all species, man or motor-powered, were tethered.  Here, too, one would usually find Chandler (Sandy) McGaw and friends planning or re-living a just enjoyed aquatic adventure. (A rangier, louder, more fun-loving band of 'Tom Sawyers' never to be found!)  Accomplished swimmers and boaters all, the gang was always at the ready to take the little people - visitors and family alike - on aquatic nature outings along the shores of the Lafayette River.  Lunches packed and skin slathered with protection, the merriment didn't stop until whatever 'vessel' returned, heralded by the shrieks of discovery and tales of history that went along with their slimy, muddy treasures.  Only THEN would "Cap'n Sandy" share the tales of the found water creatures as well!

       Blue eyes twinkling behind sun or regular glasses, Sandy was sure to cause laughter, inculcate life-lasting habits of kindness and comfort among all ages of listening ears, staring eyes and willing learners regardless of subject matter.  One learned how best to handle a Hawaiian sling to spear a lobster, when to time the shifting of body weight on a surf board to "catch the really big" waves on your board and I can only resort to the trite phrase of "mean game of poker" when talking about playing cards with our boy.

       Hard-working, harder-loving, Chandler McGaw was a true "GO TO" GUY. Of course, our first encounters were theater-centered with Sandy and our son, Philip, lending many a technical hand and tool.  But the relationship evolved into some small business endeavors during the Gulf War that were aimed at inspiring those who wait and those for whom they are waiting.  (A favorite was a white pillow case with an 11 by 17-inch photo of the military man or lady's family permanently painted on it.)

  Back at the theater 'ranch', he supported and encouraged his older brother, Parland (Parrr) and Honey and younger sister, Morgan ("born by the sea") in their acting careers.  His was a very natural, "Chevy Chase"-type sense of humor - an integral part of his personality which cannot be taught but certainly buoys the spirits of those in need when that need arises.  And he was extremely generous with his gift of pran ks and one-liners.

       "The McGaw House for Those in Need" - carved roughly on a rough-hewn sign over the front door, was a well-known neighborhood fact and many a passerby stayed a while, leaving feeling renewed.  While filming a movie in town, the Sheen brothers (who did stunts for Dad) wanted very much tom see the "Rock Church".  Marty and Jerry found it and off we all went.  On another occasion, we were doing a dinner theater show with Ray Walston.  He was dating a young lady who truly believed ina diet consisting solely of mayonnaise.  It was poker night and the young lady did not gamble.  Sandy and Philip kept her in four different kinds of mayonnaise - creating recipes ad lib - which had her amused all evening. (It seemed her IQ was rather close to the total fat in one tsp. of mayonnaise.)  For their efforts, "My Favorite Martian" gave each of them autographed martian head gear.  Made for great stories in later years.

       It was an unusual house.  Fitting.  The dining room table had been decoupaged with favorite Playbill covers painted by Marty.  She panicked when her own mother announced a Thanksgiving dinner visit.  Sandy had the table looking 'normal' with hours of sceraping, buffing and staining.  Marty's Mom was SO proud of her Vassser-grad daughter.  There was a huge poker tab,le in the game room with a marvelous view of the river.  It was also dubbed "THE EGO ROOM" as favorite scenes of Marty and Jerry from "The Lion in Winter" and "Dylan" adorned the walls.  Mysteriously, during the famous Thanksgiving dinner event, the door was locked and the key 'misplaced', later found in Sandy's boat.  All was well.

       Though our hearts will always swell with his largesse, the WORLD is a smaller, poorer place today as Chandler McGaw sped off its circumference in a motorcycle accident yesterday.  But we, Sandy's wife, kids and family will ALWAYS have him and the greatest of the lessons he taught - the Art of Living Well.
Later, Lorane. . . .


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