Gardner McKay

Gardner McKay
Gardner McKay

Gardner McKay obituary

Gardner McKay a former actor and prolific author of stories, novels, plays and radio shows, died in his Hawai’i Kai home today. He was was 69.

“He was a gem, in every way he lived his life, doing all the things the rest of us mortals aspired to do,” said Michael Titterton, president and general manager of Hawai’i Public Radio, where McKay’s weekly half-hour radio series, “Stories on the Wind,” airs at 9 p.m. Sundays on KHPR (88.1) and at 7:30 p.m. Mondays on KIPO (89.3) on the FM dial.

McKay had been battling prostate cancer for about two years. At the time of his death, he was putting the finishing touches on a series of biographical reflections, entitled “Journey Without a Map,” taping a segment as recently at two weeks ago from his sick bed.

Gardner McKay
Gardner McKay

“I’m not sure what the final status of the work is, but we’ll go ahead and premiere it in December on Hawai’i Public Radio,” said Titterton.

McKay was born June 19, 1932, in Manhattan. His full name was George Cadogan Gardner McKay and he lived in Manhattan, Paris, Ireland, Brazil, Egypt, Venezuela, the West Indies, Connecticut and Kentucky, before settling in the Islands about 25 years ago.

To early television fans, McKay was Capt. Adam Troy, skipper of a schooner named Tiki that frequented the South Pacific in search of cargo, passengers and challenges, which was televised on ABC from October 1959, till April 1962.

That TV role on “Adventures in Paradise” would mirror his later life somewhat, since McKay was a seasoned sailor and skipper who has never lived far from an ocean and also welcomed adventure and challenges to spice up his life.

His acting career included 100 films for TV, between 1960 and 1963, and his passion for theatrics and literature enabled him to plunged into an active career as a novelist (“Toyer,” “The Last American,” “Trompe L’Oeil”), a playwright (“Toyer,” “Masters of the Sea,” “This Fortunate Island,” “The People We Kill,” “The Girl Next Door Is Screaming”).

He also was a drama critic and theater editor for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner from 1977 to 1982, taught at the University of California at Los Angeles and other colleges, before moving to Hawai’i. He also taught a playwriting class at the University of Hawai’i-Manoa and was an artist of large oil paintings.

“And he did some pretty good radio programs, too,” said Titterton. 

“Besides being an actor, author and playwright, he was a raconteur, a tamer of wild animals and a perfect gentleman,” he said. McKay raised and lived with dogs, Nubian goats, hens, roosters, African lions, cheetahs, cats, cougars and other species of wildlife.

“He fought (his cancer) till the end, with his wife Madeleine at his side, and he continued to write, as if ‘Journey Without a Map’ would be his last work, hanging on to finish it. And it’s beautiful writing.”

Though McKay spent much time in the Islands, he and his wife maintained a Los Angeles home, too. When he was able to, McKay could often be seen kayaking between Koko Head and Diamond Head, one of his favorite morning rituals.

Besides his wife, survivors include a brother, Hugh Dean McKay; a son, Tristan Gardner; a daughter, Liza McKay Petree; and a granddaughter, Cheyenne Petree.

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