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Hugh Gillis McDonald

January 23, 1934 November 20, 2019
Hugh Gillis McDonald
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Obituary for Hugh Gillis McDonald

Hugh Gillis McDonald, 85 years old, died Wednesday November 20 at St. Anne's Mead in Southfield, Michigan.

A lifelong Detroiter, Hugh was mostly known by his childhood nickname “Red” and leaves behind three children – Carol, Ken and Glenn – along with six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Red's beloved wife of 50 years, Cathy, passed away in 2008. Red was the oldest of five children – with Carol, Colleen, Michael and Eileen – born to Mary Eileen Gillis and Hugh Joseph McDonald, both from Nova Scotia, Canada.

Red attended St. Gregory's high school in Detroit and worked to support his mother and siblings. He served two years in the U.S. Army, honorably discharged in 1958 as a Specialist. A loyal Teamster and union man, Red drove local routes with Associated Truck Lines and other companies for more than 30 years. He was known for his strong work ethic and reliability.

Red brought those same virtues to his family life. He met his future wife Cathy at a Detroit coffee shop and they married in 1958. Through hard work and diligence, he provided for a family of five and gave his children the priceless gifts of love, stability and opportunity.

Motor sports were a lifelong obsession and pleasure. Red made regular pilgrimages to race tracks and rivers for drag racing events and power boat races. “Anything that's loud and goes fast,” he'd say. Red owned 53 cars in his lifetime – he kept count. Legend holds that, in his youth, Red participated himself in illegal drag races down Telegraph Road in Detroit. We can't confirm these stories, however, since we're not sure about the relevant statute of limitations.

Those closest to Red can tell you – he was pretty funny. While shaving, he would often refer to himself as “The flower of the McDonald family.” This is a running joke that's been humming along for several decades now. He also invented a phrase, “chooky-chooky,” that basically means “All is well.” He never, ever complained. Ask him how he was doing and you'd usually get back his trademark line: “Everything's chooky-chooky.”

Hugh Gillis “Red” McDonald was a profoundly gentle man – tall, quiet, thoughtful and kind. He will be sorely missed and forever loved. A memorial service is planned in the spring, details to be announced at a later date. The family suggests sending any memorial contributions to the nonprofit assisted living center St. Anne's Mead.


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