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Downey Executive's Death a Loss for S&L Industry : Thrift leader: Family and employees were important to Gerald H. McQuarrie, who represented long-honored values--like honesty and integrity--not often seen in the business during the 1980s.

June 07, 1992|JAMES S. GRANELLI

It was October, 1967, and the teen-age Brent and younger brother Scott went with their parents about 15 miles offshore to try to catch marlin or sailfish. Instead, they caught something that was so big and strong that it knocked their boat around as McQuarrie wrestled with it. His wife, Oneida, and Brent also took turns reeling in the fish and letting the line out, a process that went on for an hour as they tired the fish out.

In the end, the McQuarries had to tie the fish alongside the boat. It was too heavy to bring aboard. Brent said no one at first was quite sure what it was. But it turned out to be an 11-foot-long thresher shark that weighed 228 pounds, the third largest fish ever caught off Newport Beach at the time.

"I broke several knives trying to kill it," Brent said. By coincidence, they tied the fish so it dragged backward in the water for a slow two-hour trip home. "We didn't know it, but we were told that dragging it in the water backward caused water to go in the gills. It eventually drowned."

The shark was smoked and fed the family for a long time, said Brent, who is now 40.

McQuarrie some years later took up golf, more for the fun and recreation than the effort to post a low score. He helped his score with a few rules he invented, like the McQuarrie drop. Scott explained it to about 300 people who attended funeral services for his father on Wednesday: If your ball goes behind a tree, you can kick it onto the fairway without a penalty stroke being assessed.

McQuarrie found humor in many things, even though he sometimes felt a little guilty about finding some things funny.

While fishing last year, for instance, he chuckled as he recalled an early Downey Savings promotion. The thrift offered a silver dollar to anyone who would let an employee put a bumper sticker reading, "Follow Me to Downey Savings," on the car. A lot of customers agreed, possibly to their later chagrin.

"Those bumper stickers really stayed on," he laughed. "People had to sell their cars to get rid of them."

For McQuarrie, life was full and exciting.

"I wish everybody could feel as happy as we do," he said.

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