Garry Mac, a TV and radio personality and a figure in the Chattanooga medical and nonprofit communities, died Tuesday in Florida where he lived and spent most of his time. He was 67.
Mac worked at WDXB and WGOW and is perhaps best known for his work with partner Dale Deason at WGOW, where they hosted a morning show in the 1980s. In recent years, Mac filled in at WGOW talk radio as a substitute when hosts were on vacation or sick.
After leaving broadcasting, Mac went to work for Memorial Hospital as a marketing assistant. At Memorial, Mac started the water bottle program, which urged people to drink plenty of water a day. He was a news anchor for WDEF-TV 12 for two years in the mid-’90s. He was also a spokesman for Hospice of Chattanooga and a frequent guest on local TV news and talk programs.
“Garry was a tremendously gifted air personality and deeply loved and respected by the broadcast community and everyone he met. He always carried a smile with him, and I’ll miss that a lot. Prayers for the family,” fellow broadcaster and broadcasting executive Ben Cagle said.
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“This just takes my breath away,” Memorial’s Jean Payne said in a text Wednesday morning. “I loved him so much, and he always had such joy. I ate lunch with him a few months ago along with Karen Sloan. Any time he was in town, we would try to connect. Huge loss for all.
“Garry always connected people of all ages and all backgrounds. He had such passion for his family, friends, his profession and was gifted on many levels, always kind and fun, too.”
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Mac was also an active member of the loosely organized Veterans of Radio Wars. He and fellow broadcaster and friend David Carroll, Local 3 News anchor, started the group in the early ’90s with others who were “getting out of the radio business, and (WGOW personality and UTC Mocs broadcaster) Jim Reynolds, who is still in it,” according to Carroll.
Carroll said by phone that their small group would meet for lunch and eventually it grew.
They would often host an annual lunch with several dozen people. Carroll and Mac would entertain the crowd of current and former TV and radio employees with jabs and time-worn inside jokes, Carroll said.
“Man, it hit me like a ton of bricks,” Carroll said by text. “Had lunch with him at Zarzour’s Wednesday. He drove back to Florida that night. All seemed fine. I’ve lost a brother and a best friend.”
Carroll later said by phone that Mac was the glue that kept everything together.
“I called him the straw that stirred the drink. When he entered the room, the party started,” Carroll said. “He was so approachable and so likeable.”
Reynolds said by phone that Mac and former Times Free Press reporter Mark McCarter “took me under their wing when I moved to Chattanooga in the 1980s.”
“Garry showed me what Chattanooga was all about,” Reynolds said. “He took me to Dairy Gold, Nikkis, Zarzour’s. The Chattanooga he knew.
“He was so proud of this city, and that is something he never lost.”
Reynolds said the two had traveled together covering the Mocs and were members of Christ United Methodist Church in East Brainerd, “and he loved that church. He was on the board and did all kinds of things there.”
WDEF on-air personality Chip Chapman wrote in a text that Mac “was always curious and a delight to be around. Garry was not just gifted in the art of conversation, he was an absolute master at it.”
Carroll said Mac had left specific instructions for how he wanted his funeral to go, and that those will be followed. He also said Mac has several family members in various parts of the world and the planning could take a while.
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.