By DON STINE
A decade ago John McGillion and his wife, Mary Christine, drove into Asbury Park and things have never been the same. He pushed to get the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade established which attracts thousands every year and he saved the record-breaking Zombie Walk when it was in danger of disappearing.
The well-known owner of Johnny Mac House of Spirits and Kim Marie’s Eat and Drink Away died Sun., July 12 in Asbury Park surrounded by his family. He was 78.
Known as “Johnny Mac,” Asbury Park Mayor John Moor called him one of a kind.
“I was so happy that I got to meet him and to know him,” Moor said.
He recalled all the charitable things McGillion did for the community.
“He gave gifts to the schools at Christmas, and was so generous to the Mayor’s Rodeo for Recreation,” he said. “We will never really know what he gave. It was a fraction of what we know.”
Moor also said McGillion never wanted publicity.
“He never wanted it to be public,” he said. “He just did the right thing; he wanted to give back to the community. He wasn’t looking for applause.”
City Councilwoman Eileen Chapman wants residents to know the “soft side” of Johnny Mac.
“He was a colorful character in our city. I don’t think many people knew the side of Johnny Mac that he gave so much to charity; the soft side, the philanthropic side,” she said. “He was an asset to our community. He brought business here and employed many residents.”
Summing up the news of his death, she said simply, “He will be missed.”
Asbury Park former fire official Garrett Giberson said it was through McGillion’s efforts that Giberson got involved in the city’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade, which has been held for the last seven years.
“He is the one that drove me to organize it. I mentioned to him one day that Asbury Park has never had a St. Patrick’s Day parade and that I thought we needed one. Apparently, John went out and started talking to various people about the idea and he telephoned me later telling me that it was a great idea and that I was going to be president of a committee to run it. So, here we are seven years later with a successful parade that is, in part, due to his drive and generosity. He was a supporter of the parade before it even got off the ground,” he said.
“He was a very generous man and a guy who was larger than life. It is a great loss to our community and he will be greatly missed. He was a great man,” Giberson said.
Local realtor Sammy Boyd said he first met McGillion while he was purchasing properties in Asbury Park years ago.
“And this partnership grew into a friendship. I loved his light-heartedness and that will be forever with me. I just have a bad, bad feeling of emptiness without him,” he said.
Boyd agrees that McGillion “was a catalyst” behind forming the city’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade.
“He was the fiber of Asbury Park and a loving and giving man. I just can’t say enough and I will miss him dearly,” he said.
He is survived by his beloved wife, Mary Christine, daughters Christine Nardi and Marybeth Bloom (Ryan), son John McGillion Jr (Tara); stepdaughters Cassandra, Stephanie and Dominique; grandchildren Ryan Nardi, Dylan and McKenzie Bloom and Charlotte and Fiona Rose McGillion; sisters Annie Engelson (Daniel) and Kathleen Briscoe (John) and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews, and grand nieces and grand nephews. He was predeceased by his beloved daughter Kim Marie McGillion, his parents, John and Anne McGillion and sister Mary McGillion.
A service will be held Thurs., July 23 from 4 to 8 p.m. at Johnny Mac House of Spirits.
A funeral mass is scheduled for Fri., July 24 at St Margaret Church in Spring Lake at 10:30 a.m.
Those attending each event are asked to wear a mask.
In place of flowers donations should be sent to the Asbury Park Boys and Girls Club and Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Asbury Park.