Richard F. McGill, an international business success story and all around nice guy, dies at 91
On July 20, Richard Dick Francis McGill passed away after a brief illness. Richard “Dick” Francis McGill was born a British subject in Antwerp, Belgium on Dec. 27, 1928, lived all over the world and settled with his wife Liliane in Key Biscayne.
McGill lived his 91 years on his terms -- with kindness, love, generosity of spirit and gusto. His father was born in Glasgow, Scotland. His Belgian mother became a British subject when she married Richard’s father in 1918, as a refugee from World War I. Dick’s father was a staff sergeant at the Royal Air Force base High Wycombe, England. When asked about "a real Scott born in Belgium?" Dick always quoted his mother, who said: “If a cat has kittens in an oven, they are not cookies are they?” His sense of humor never abandoned him through thick and thin.
In 1936 Dick’s father, an executive at General Motors Continental in Antwerp, was transferred to Switzerland as an executive director of the newly formed GM Suisse company. Dick then attended primary and secondary schools in Bienne, the international Anglo-American school and Le Châteaux de Changins in Nyon and finally the college of St. Michel in Fribourg until 1946 when his father was transferred back to Antwerp following the end of WWII. Meanwhile Dick, a quick learner, had picked up several languages that served him well in later years.
While studying for an engineering career in Antwerp, General Motors offered Dick an engineering scholarship at Kettering University, where he graduated in 1951. In 1949 he got engaged to his future wife, Liliane, whom he met at a tennis club in Antwerp. Liliane later joined him in the US, where they were married in Detroit in 1950. Sadly, Liliane passed away in 2016 after 66 years of marriage filled with exciting adventures in countless countries.
Throughout his stellar career with General Motors, Dick was responsible for significant and lasting growth of the company in several countries. He started in Belgium selling trucks. His skills and talent were apparent to the executives in Detroit as they sent Dick to Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Portugal, Brazil, China, Detroit and New York to improve and develop operations worldwide. Dick was responsible for bringing the Opel brand to Germany and Europe achieving top sales and cross development in the US. Anyone who knew Dick, experienced the General Motors sales pitch. Police Chief Charles Press shared that Dick relentlessly pursued the Village of Key Biscayne to finally purchase some GM products for their fleet. A feat, considering he had retired some 25 years before!
Dick and Liliane moved to Brazil in 1968, starting a life-long love of Brazil and its people. He overcame huge challenges in developing the first GM passenger car fully manufactured in Brazil -- a task he accomplished to great success and acclaim. Dick was named a Citizen of Honor by São Paulo for his contribution to the economic development of the city and the jobs the company created. Dick and Liliane loved living in Brazil and made many new friends. They both rapidly learned to speak Portuguese fluently and occasionally continued speaking it to each other long after retiring.
Dick elected an early retirement in 1989 after 40 years with GM and did not want to see “one more airport or one more Hilton hotel,” he liked to say. Dick and his father were actually on the GM payroll well over 100 years. He and Liliane made up their minds to retire in Key Biscayne. Liliane was an avid ocean swimmer, while Dick finally got a chance to play golf.
Life was good in Key Biscayne. Dick and Liliane were active members of the KB Yacht Club, enjoying frequent dinners and parties. He also joined the Rotary Club of Key Biscayne where he founded RAGS (Richard’s Amazing Golf Society) as a club within the Rotary Club. He was elected president of the Rotary Club in 1997 and later served in several leadership positions. Dick also became a member of the Prologue Society and the Key Biscayne Historical and Heritage Society. He was also President of the Commodore Club Condominium Association for several years. Dick was particularly proud of mentoring students at MAST Academy, encouraging them to pursue engineering degrees. He was a very strong supporter of his alma mater, Kettering University, from the moment he entered the school in 1948.
Dick was never the same again after Liliane's death. Helping him with his grief was Vladimir (Liliane‘s dog). Dick and Vladimir became inseparable friends. Dick and Liliane had no children, nor brothers or sisters. He often said his family was in the deep friendships he forged at the Rotary Club of Key Biscayne.
A few close relatives are living in Tampa, Detroit and Chicago.
A celebration of life is being planned for mid-August. Details to follow. Per Dick's wishes, his ashes will be laid to rest next to Liliane’s at St. Christopher’s Church in Key Biscayne.