The Passing of a Legend
It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of Gary Mckensie aged 61 who passed away on Friday the 26th February after a short but brave battle with cancer. Gary passed away peacefully in his sleep out of pain surrounded by his children and devoted wife Lyn.
Lyn bravely brokered the sad news to us shortly after Gary’s death and has kindly given us permission to celebrate and share some memories and photographs in recognition of Gary’s wide circle of friends and work colleagues.
The following words, stories and quotations are a testament to Gary and hopefully will provide a little colour and healing to those who knew him and recognise just what a true gentleman, mentor, and confidant he has been too so many. Although Gary wasn’t working for Makers when he died, he still maintained a very close association both with Jim Maker Makers founder, Makers and myself joining us for the celebrations of the CRA at the Houses of Parliament as our guest and continued to serve our very specialised industry.
Gary’s association with Makers and more particularly Jim Maker goes back to their very first London job at the Elephant & Castle working on Albert House in 1982. Back in those days concrete repair was a dark art and Gary a complete artiste, but through that project and many more created a bond so strong that it became more like Father and Son right up to the present day.
Jim Maker, Makers founder, was too upset to talk on hearing the news of Gary’s’ demise but graciously sent a couple of texts messages and when he heard of Gary’s situation back in November had little hesitation of making contact and comforting Gary.
“ ….I have so many memories its actually painful to remember them and some that I shouldn’t, but the loss I feel makes me numb and I have lost so much more than a friend….I always turned to him when I was down or frustrated and he always had that magical ability to find the right words of comfort and bring me around with his wit.
I was immensely fond of his company enjoyed many a time with him, he was a great wingman, fantastic confidant and I utterly trusted his opinion. He remained a very dear friend through thick and thin and I will really miss the old bugger!!! My heart goes out to Lyn and the family and I am relieved that Gary is no longer in pain…”
Jim Maker Founder and Ex Chairman Makers UK
Gary’s relationship went much deeper than Employer Employee, whilst many of us knew he had the ear of Jim, it was his own abilities and confidence that inspired many to respect him, often becoming their mentor and guiding them into very successful careers within our industry. Gary’s ability to see through complexities and often come up with compromising solutions meant that many people turned to him for advice, and his influence in Makers was wide ranging especially during the annual training weekends at the Lake District where many an ego was taken down a peg or two, often assuming the role of Arbitrator!
Gary’s tenure at Makers ended in in January 2001 after 19 years at the company where he joined Stoneguard Rail as a Contracts Director where he continued for 7 years finally arriving at his recent home of Freyssinet where he took up the position of London and South East Manager joining at the back end of 2010. Gary continued to take a keen interest in Makers despite working for the “opposition”, as both he and Jim Maker made frequent visits to our head office at Shenstone and was very impressed with our progress since our MBO and heaped praise on the apprentice scheme stating it was just what our industry needed. Fine praise indeed, but his main reason was to catch up, share a beer or two and put the world to rights.
Gary always made himself available for advice and I often sought his counsel where he played the role of big brother and vice versa when he was struggling he would pick up the phone and chew the cud usually with his familiar Cockney greeting,….” How you doin’ you Nothern Monkey”, “ better than you, you Southern Softy!!!”
In 2018 Gary tried to broker a deal between Freyssinet and Makers as he thought it was a great fit and it would be beneficial to both companies, he was a great admirer of what we had achieved and was “gutted” when it didn’t happen.
During his tenure at Makers Gary had a bit of a reputation of being a bit of a gambler with a supposed knowledge of horses. We only got to hear of his successes but the jungle drums rumbled on and if you got the call from Gary it was a “sure thing!”
On one such morning a brief high level telephone conversation took place at our Birmingham office resulting in an instant group gathering whereby staff were encouraged to empty their pockets, more correctly, their wallets with a view to accumulating funds for a bet. Explanation enough that a certain horse in the 14.40 at Kempton was a sure thing with trainer knowledge and those willing to participate would be amply rewarded.
Impromptu visits to cash points, promises of repayment and cries of “I’m good for it” led to a flurry of activity arriving in the amassed sum of £800. With clear instructions to drive straight to the booking shop and place the whole sum on to win. Dissenting voices questioning the wisdom of such action and maybe the option of placing a bet each way was soundly drowned out by the more enthusiastic participants remarkably those who had borrowed the monies in the first place.
Driving back from the bookies with betting slip in hand and odds of 4-1, calls were placed to Gary enquiring as to odds achieved elsewhere. Satisfied that the price was a good one the winnings were already being counted and spent, calls were made to other acquaintances explaining the situation and to jump on as quick as possible. The race begins and the expectant crowd gathers in the Regional Directors office huddled around a radio.
The race begins, hush descends followed by silence as expectant recipients strain to hear the commentary and the calling of the horses name. The timid calls of encouragement suddenly picked up to vocal screaming as the horse is positioned with only a few furlongs to go. The anguish and contortion and the imagination spurs on the horse to victory only to be followed by the look of exasperation as the horse comes in a close third pipped by a half a length! The sheer silence, the looking at feet, the quiet shuffling back into respective offices. Then the phone call! The raised voices! The slamming of doors, the departure to the pub, luckily for Gary his office a mere 150 miles away……
Despite all this Gary remained a firm favourite amongst all the guys and gals at Makers. His easy manner made it difficult to be angry or sharp with him for any period of time and his bon amie carried him through many a tough day within the company. When Gary left us, we all knew he would come up smelling of roses or get very lucky and he did just that when he met Lyn back in 2010.
Gary had tried his hand at being a full-time professional gambler after leaving Stoneguard Rail, but as previously explained not so easy and so after a spell of freelancing joined Freyssinet in late 2010 as their London and South East Manager working out of their London Office as a steadier position was now required.
Gary’s sense of timing and humour no doubt worked wonders on Lyn as he often described her as 1 in 100 with a cheeky grin when he had a glass in his hand, but it obviously worked as on the 15th July 2016 Gary and Lyn got married in Mauritius with both Gary’s and Lyn’s children present to celebrate and enjoy the holiday.
Lyn described it as “a fantastic time, to have all the children there was very special, and so very thankful and grateful now that they were able to be there.”
Gary was always one for the exotic holidays and did his fair share of jetting around the world with Lyn and when I often rang him and got the foreign dealing tone he would answer “ hold on Si , just let me put my drink down …”. On one such occasion I actually asked him where he was and he answered “Torrox”, I said you are kidding that’s 30 minutes from me. A 20-minute conversation led to the usual promises of visits and I thought no more of it until 14.00 the next day when Gary pulls up with Lyn in tow and a boot full of luggage. “It’s only for a few days” he shouts, “Nice gaff” and drops onto a sun lounger, “bloody hot ‘ere Si in `it, got a beer?”
Lyn and I were introduced and they both made themselves at home and we had a fantastic 3 days in Granada which I now consider very precious. It was a pleasure to share my home with Gary and Lyn and I am deeply saddened that we won’t be able to frequent those Tapas bars with Gary shouting “ over here mate, same again” only to be ignored, but you did make me buy that bull Gary which now resides at the house but that’s another story!
Gary’s condition came off the back of a diagnosis after a Covid enforced holiday in a hired camper van to the highlands of Scotland. More use to the sunnier climes Gary had it on his to-do list but the trip was cut short with deteriorating weather and Gary’s voice fading with what was suspected as Laryngitis. With little improvement and a 2-week courses of anti-biotics a visit to an ENT specialist revealed a vocal chord palsy.
Early diagnosis suggested that it could be viral or a tumour in the lung, Gary’s immediate thought was cancer and became understandably concerned having lost his twin brother Steven in 2018 to lung cancer. Sensing the worse, further MRI scans revealed a large advanced tumor in his left lung covering some 60% of the area which was pressing down on the nerve in the vocal chord causing the palsy coupled with a metastasis in his lymphatic system and spinal chord vertebrae accounting for the pain in his back and poor mobility. Whilst most of us were thinking of the Christmas Holidays and times with family on the 18th December Gary received the prognosis that he had between 6-18 months life expectancy with treatment.
Like all things, Covid 19 has had a devastating affect which has been far reaching amongst all facets of our lives but no more so when we are unable to see love ones especially when they are ill and vulnerable. Although we have new technology with face time and Zoom unfortunately Gary lost his voice and mobility making access very difficult but even through these ups and downs, he continued to text friends and colleagues and even comment on linked in where 3 weeks ago he commented on a video post made by Jim Lakin about his wife who was ringing the bell and leaving hospital after 18 weeks of chemotherapy.
He wrote “Very well done and all my best wishes for the future” and that sums Gary up. He didn’t mention his own battle, he didn’t seek sympathy he just delighted in someone else’s success and joy and that’s what made Gary so special. True, Gary was very scared of the outcome and messaged me along those lines understandably but remained positive even sending me pictures of his wheelchair and joking about its performance, citing that Lyn’s cooking would have to improve if he was to regain the weight he had lost.
Like many I am devastated that I was unable to say goodbye to my friend, to wish him well on his onward journey, but on reflection I am also relieved that I can remember him as that ebullient character full of life and joviality, with his cockney accent ringing in my ears and that memory is strong and will last my lifetime.
It is unlikely that we will see the likes of Gary Mckensie again in our industry spanning over 36 years across 3 companies but his legacy lives on with all those he taught, mentored and encouraged within those three organisations.
Sadly, Gary leaves behind his Rock Lyn, together with his children Danny, Sam, Lucy and Tammy and Lyn’s boys Simon and Dan. Gary was considered a father to all of them including their respective partners and a super fun Grandad to Lottie, Pearlie, Ben, Alfie and Tommy.
Gary passed away smiling to the very end surrounded by his loving family. Despite his willingness to fight to endure the Radiography and chemotherapy treatment to ensure he and Lyn could share another summer together, as he said, make more memories ,unfortunately the treatment put more pressure on his heart and blood vessels and so after 3 episodes of treatment returned to the Royal Sussex Hospital where ironically he passed away in his sleep 2 years to the day of the death of his father.
Gary visited his father religiously without fail 2-3 times a week despite the 2.5 hours round trip and his heavy work load for 2 years following the admission of his father into residential care after his accident.
Of his treatment Lyn Said “…the hospital staff have been amazing and I have nothing but praise and admiration for the care and attention Gary received. At the end we were only in hospital for a few hours and Gary remained calm and smiling right up to his final hour when he went to sleep before peacefully slipping away….”
We will all miss him in different ways but we should be thankful that Gary was part of our lives and now rests peacefully and without pain. Gary you may not have been able to pick a winner but you were a winner to all of us. Rest in Peace and travel well my friend.
A book of remembrance has been opened up for Gary for those who would like to leave their own personal message and can be found on the following link