Madison Heights remembers Gary and Diane McGillivray

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison-Park News | Published November 15, 2023

  At the 2018 awards luncheon for the Madison Heights Community Round Table, Oakland County Commissioner Gary McGillivray and his wife Diane received MHCRT Volunteer of the Year awards.

At the 2018 awards luncheon for the Madison Heights Community Round Table, Oakland County Commissioner Gary McGillivray and his wife Diane received MHCRT Volunteer of the Year awards.

Photo by Doug MacLean

MADISON HEIGHTS — Gary McGillivray, the most recent Oakland County commissioner for District 3, died Nov. 3, just two weeks after the Oct. 18 death of his wife, Diane McGillivray.

The Madison Heights couple were married for 48 years. Gary served Madison Heights as its county commissioner since 2009, but prior to that he served on the Madison Heights City Council from 1983 to 1998, and again from 2001 to 2008. He also briefly served as mayor from 1998 to 1999. He was 71 at the time of his passing.

Diane, meanwhile, was a long-time volunteer serving her community as a Girl Scout leader and PTO president, and she was also involved with Madison Heights Little League Baseball, the Madison Heights Women’s Club, the Metropolitan Club, Madison Heights Youth Assistance and more. She was 67.

Together, they formed a dynamic duo with far-reaching impacts across the city and beyond. They also raised a family that includes children Andrew McGillivray and Amy (Josh) Schroder.

“The entire city of Madison Heights mourns with the McGillivray family over the loss of Gary and Diane,” said Mark Bliss, the mayor pro tem. “I do not have a single memory of the city growing up here that doesn’t involve them. They were a part of everything in our community, and I think very few folks in the city’s entire history have made as big a contribution to our city as they did. There were decades of service and kindness and volunteerism, helping our city become what it is today.”

Bliss noted that Gary was the only Madison Heights resident in recent history to serve the city at a higher level of government.

“Our state reps have lived in other cities. Our state senators, as well. You’d have to go decades back to have another that lived here. The county seat has long been from Madison Heights — it was Gary, and before Gary, it was George Suarez,” Bliss said. “So, I think the impact that Gary was able to make on both his own community and surrounding communities is worth noting. He was a member of the community he served, which makes a real difference here.”

Bliss said that the Red Oaks Nature Center at Suarez Friendship Woods is an example of this. It was Gary who brokered a lease deal between the county and city in the early 2010s that allowed the nature center to survive at a time when the city alone was no longer able to fund it. More recently, he also helped arrange ongoing investments into Ambassador Park. In recognition of his steadfast support of the parks, the city even renamed Twelve-Sherry Park as “McGillivray Park” on July 17.

Roslyn Grafstein, the mayor, remembered that event fondly.

“It was a beautiful day with his wife, his children and granddaughter,” Grafstein said via email.  “I like to think (Gary and Diane) are together, smiling down on their family and their legacy.”

Bliss said that Gary and Diane truly lived lives of service.

“Many came in contact with Gary as a volunteer through things like Little League Baseball or through our parks and recreation programs. He also spearheaded the nature center cleanups, another volunteer effort. So, you might be working at a concession stand at a ball game with our county commissioner who also served our city in an elected position for decades,” Bliss said. “He was a volunteer first. He and Diane loved this city — not just the 7.8 square miles, but they understood that Madison Heights is the people here. They were about community, and investing in our youth.”

Sean Fleming, a member of the Madison Heights City Council, described Gary as a mentor.

“He was a person I could go to and get advice, and he is going to be very much missed,” Fleming said. “I know he was able to help me, shedding light on how the county works and the issues there and how they affect us. He was always looking out for Madison Heights, and he played a big role getting more attention for the southern portion of Oakland County. He made things better for us, and he’s going to have a legacy that lives on for a long time.”