Michael Joseph Gaitley passed peacefully from this life on June 30th, 2023 surrounded by his wife and children. His family will miss him tremendously. Life with Mike was never a dull moment, he always kept things real and entertaining.
Mike is survived by his beloved bride of 54 years, Linda. Together they made a family and had three amazing children Heather, Fr. Mike, and Joe. Fr. Mike was Mike’s constant companion for the last few months of his life as he was in need of assistance 24 hours a day. Fr. Mike was able to assist his dad physically and spiritually to prepare him for a most beautiful death.
Mike and Linda have been blessed with 13 grandchildren who knew him as “Papa” and who he adored. Heather (Gaitley) McGrath and her husband Mike are parents to Joseph, Helena, John, Michael, Anna, Maria, and Lily. Joe and his wife Tracy are parents to Lauren, Cecily, Cade, Siena and two precious infant daughters who preceded Mike in death, Grace John Paul and Maryn Pia.
Mike also leaves behind his cherished sister Jane (Gaitley) Collins, her husband Conrad, and their sons Jacob, Ben, and Joshua.
Mike grew up in small town upstate New York and was the first child to Joseph and Laura Hemings Gaitley. His sister Jane was born 18 months later. Mike was one of those boys who needed to move and who loved the outdoors. Some of his favorite pastimes were riding his bike, playing baseball and basketball, hunting rattlesnakes in swamps with his cousin and going out to his cousins’ house in the country. The always and ever energetic boy, Mike loved working on farms: letting out the cows in the morning, bailing hay, and driving tractors.
The other pastime he enjoyed, was eating. He loved church socials and family picnics. Anywhere there was food was a great time for him.
After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the United States Navy. He was sent right out of boot camp to an Admiral’s staff where he met his buddy, Vern Duty whom he kept in touch with until the end. Mike served on several ships, one of which was the USS Guam (LPH-9) which was a recovery ship for Gemini 11. He was also stationed aboard the Battleship USS New Jersey (BB-62). And while he was in medical holding at Naval Station Long Beach California, he met the love of his life and future bride, Linda.
Mike still loved to eat food and so to put it on the table and care for his growing family, upon discharge from the Navy he secured a job with Pepsi Cola by creatively engaging the hiring manager about “having received a phone call from a guy at the company”. He had gotten the guy’s name off of a door when he went down to apply for the job. Mike loved driving the large Pepsi truck and delivering to the cities of Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, and all points nearby. He ate plenty of sandwiches at the beach and basked in the goodness of Southern California sunshine, food, and hard work.
Eventually Mike got the chance to drive a monster concrete mixer and worked at pouring concrete for over 30 years as a member of the Teamsters. Mike was quite a character. He provided many hysterical moments for his fellow driving buddies over the years, ask anyone who he worked with. There are many stories out there about working with Mike Gaitley. He was the kind of guy who worked hard, played hard, and ate well.
Saturdays were often work days for Mike but after work he could usually be found playing “Saturday softball” with the Green Park Legends. And at least a few times a week he would play pick-up basketball in Downey on his way home from work.
Mike loved his family and found being a grandfather the ultimate joy in his life. Before he passed, he spoke to each of his 11 grandkids individually with deep love and spoke of a specific and intimate memory he had with each.
After he retired from driving a concrete mixer, he worked several jobs. Starting with working at an airline at John Wayne Airport as a baggage handler. He worked circles around many of the younger guys. His motto was, “if you aren’t 15 minutes early, you’re late”. He loved the perk of working for the airlines as it afforded him free flights to visit his precious grandkids back east. His next job was at Cypress Golf Course as a Marshall. Ever the perfectionist he took great pride in his work. He was well known and recognized for his humor and excellence as a Marshall. The golf course was his favorite job. Mike relished the beauty of the sunsets and the peace and quiet at the end of the day there. After the golf course closed, Mike got a job as a crossing guard in his neighborhood. He loved the interactions with the children and he felt good keeping them safe.
Finally, he did retire. He had caught the “golf bug”. He played several clubs in Southern California regularly. Mike had some great golf buddies and even made sure to golf every Thursday for two years with a buddy who developed Alzheimer’s until his own health demanded more attention. Mike played golf through all of his treatments. One would never have believed he had any health problems.
Mike loved and was beloved by many. His gardener, the principal at the school across the street from his home, his many long-time neighbors, just to name of few of the numerous people who were impacted by Mike’s generosity of spirit and knack for connecting on a very human level.
Mike was a faithful Catholic and loved and embraced God’s mercy. It was that reality, and his loving family who walked with him the last year or so of his life and supported him when his diagnosis became terminal. He was tough as nails in holding on through the trials of frequent chemotherapy for two years. He was determined to fight cancer and win. In time he did succumb to the havoc of the chemotherapy and cancer. But to be with him over the last few months and then weeks of his life, it became clearer and clearer that he was winning and that he finally at the very end, had won.
Mike struggled with but then finally accepted where he was in the fight. In the eyes of those close by he went from being a warrior against a disease he fought and bore heroically for many years, to a soldier of a different type. He knew that he had lost the battle with cancer toward the end, it became clearer and clearer as he lost more and more of his ability and strength. But he took on the armor of God in a most clear and profound way toward the end. Mike became both ennobled and like a lamb. He was full of the strength of love.
As his family cared for his ever ailing and weakening body, we watched as he accepted what he had once struggled with. He doled out the jokes and fun just as generously and with the same genius he had always done. And he also showed us what it looks like to take up one’s cross and to bear the yoke of Christ. His docility and acceptance of his path toward his death was one of great faith, hope, and charity. He promised to go into eternity with his family ever in his heart and to bring us to the Father so that he, Mike, could continue to be with us and take care of us until we meet him again in the beautiful face of God the Father.
We miss him so much and wish he was still with us, but our dad gave us something so rich and meaningful in knowing that we have a soul working for us even now in eternity. One of his greatest consolations during his last weeks seemed to be that he could “go to work” for us all, on the other side. In quieter moments, it seemed to give him the boost needed when thoughts can get so big and overwhelming. He loved that he could still work for us all and take care of us.
We love you dad, forever and ever. Thank you for our life here and we will see you in eternity.
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