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
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.
McGrath, Inc. has been a major player in the Southern
California construction industry for the better part
of a century and the experience of it’s seasoned
personnel consists of nearly 200 years worth of knowledge.
The following is a list of projects that C.W. McGrath
participated in over the past 50 years.