C.W. “Bill” McGRATH


Bill McGrath, one of the pioneers in the San Diego construction and real estate industry over the last 60 years, passed away peacefully in his home on September 1, 2005. He was 85 years old.

Bill was born in Oakland California to Dora and Tom McGrath, and was one of eight children. He joined the Navy in 1941 and was stationed in San Diego, serving for 4 years.

Bill started his business career at the age of 14, purchasing his first truck for topsoil deliveries. Unable to drive, he employed his brother, John as a driver and continued to grow his material sales business for 70 years. Despite these humble beginnings, Bill progressively expanded his business over the next several decades to become one of the largest general engineering contractors in the county. His projects included grading and improvements for many major residential and commercial developments throughout San Diego County as well as numerous freeway and road projects including portions of Mission Gorge, Interstate 8 and Interstate 78 in Vista. Among his most notable achievements was construction of a section of Highway 120 known as Tioga Pass that begins at Lee Vining and continues to the entrance of Yosemite National Park.

One of Bill’s passions was acquiring heavy earthmoving equipment much like someone might collect antique cars. He was always reluctant to sell anything regardless of age or obsolescence and took pride in his “spread” which numbered over 700 pieces at one time. His inventory of equipment and trucks were well known throughout San Diego with the familiar Shamrock logo stenciled on the cab.

Bill’s other passion was buying and holding real estate in which he enjoyed great success. His largest acquisition in Kearney Mesa, which he purchased with his wife, Carlee in 1946, was subsequently developed by the family over a period of years into a mixed-use business park culminating with the completion of the McGrath Center in 2001.

Bill was known throughout the community for his sometimes feisty nature and shrewd negotiating skills. As a former prize fighter during his Navy years and beyond, he was known as a tough competitor who didn’t back down and would never quit, and those skills served him well in his career. But those who knew him well understood that beneath that tough exterior was a warm and caring man who was always there for his friends and family. His substantial contributions through the McGrath Foundation including the recently opened Toby Wells YMCA and the soon-to-be constructed McGrath Family YMCA in Rancho San Diego will provide a legacy of the McGrath families generosity for generations to come.