By Darren Simon
Valley Women Writer
2:40 PM PDT, April 27, 2011
Michael William Mcmahon and his wife, Sharon, were among the lucky ones in the wake of the April 4 7.2-magnitude earthquake — lucky in that the only real damage they suffered was a few broken china-set dishes.
Others throughout the Imperial Valley weren’t so lucky as they were displaced, at least for a time, from their homes or apartments.
Mike McMahon saw the hurt many were going through and chose to act.
“We were sitting at home one night, and he was really upset because he felt the government was not stepping up to help the victims,” Sharon says of her husband. “He said it makes him angry and something needs to be done.”
So Sharon reminded her husband of his 25-years experience of organizing barbecue fundraiser events largely through his involvement with Kiwanis, and her words struck a chord with him.
“He spoke to the board of Kiwanis, and that’s how it all started,” she relates.
What was born out of that evening conversation between husband and wife was an event titled “IV Earthquake Victims Relief BBQ,” which was held May 16. Held at two locations, Imperial Valley College and Wilson Junior High School in El Centro, the barbecue became a huge Valleywide effort involving a number of civic clubs, churches, volunteers and donations.
In the end, $100,000 was raised to help local earthquake victims, and while anyone who knows Mike McMahon knows he would never take credit for such a communitywide event, truth be told — and all interviewed said this — without his know how, his community spirit and his drive to make a difference, the event would not have been such a success.
For his efforts involved with spearheading the earthquake victim barbecue and for his years of community work, the man many simply know as Mike was chosen as this edition’s Man of Distinction.
A HISTORY OF CARING
That Mike would act on his wish to help people in the wake of the earthquake comes as no surprise to those who know him best. It is what he does — it is what he has always done.
“He cares for this community,” Sharon McMahon says. “I don’t know why he does — he just does.”
Sharon could not hold back tears as she speaks of her husband. The tears came, she confesses, because it moves her so much how deeply her husband loves the Imperial Valley and the people who call the Valley home.
The list of McMahon’s involvement in the Valley is long — longer than can be conveyed in this article, but that list does include serving on the Imperial County Disaster Recovery Team, which ensures those affected by the April 4 earthquake have access to the services they need.
His civic service also includes 28 years as a member of Kiwanis, an organization whose focus is helping children locally, nationally and internationally. Not only was he president twice of the Kiwanis Club of El Centro, but he also served as the Lieutenant Governor of his Kiwanis regional district.
As part of his years with Kiwanis, McMahon served as chairman of an annual barbecue event honoring the pilots and crews of the Blue Angels. As part of that event, not only did Kiwanis show their appreciation for the Blue Angels, but also used the event to raise funds for Kiwanis’ work with children.
Along with Kiwanis, he also has served in the past as an Imperial County Planning Commissioner, and he served for many years as a local scoutmaster for the Boy Scouts (McMahon himself reached the highest level in scouting as an Eagle Scout).
Mike’s son, Michael Joseph McMahon, who resides in El Cajon with his wife Shannon and their two children, says his father is a true role model.
“He is an example to follow,” Michael Joseph describes of his father. “When I grow up, I want to be like him. He puts the community first, and I’m encouraged by the things he does. I want to become involved the way he is involved.”
A VALLEY NATIVE
One reason McMahon may care so much for the Imperial Valley is because he is a native.
McMahon was born in El Centro in 1949 after his parents, the late Dr. William McMahon, a dentist, and the late Sally McMahon moved to the Valley. In fact, you could say he was born into Kiwanis as his father was a member. One of the few Kiwanis meetings his father ever missed came on the day McMahon was born.
McMahon was raised in the Imperial Valley and graduated from Central Union High School in 1968. His wife, also an Imperial Valley native, explains that she met him while they were in high school, but she didn’t care for him much then.
“He was such a jokester — a clown,” she remembers. “He was always clowning around.”
It wasn’t until 10 years later that they met again, and this time Sharon decided to give him a chance. They started dating Sept. 2, 1977, and were married Dec. 17, 1977.
But long before that, after high school, McMahon left the Valley and started working in tires in Los Angeles. He later moved to San Diego where he continued to work in tires for Goodyear.
At that time he was just beginning what would be a long career — one he still is a part of and loves, according to friends and family — in the tire industry. Eventually he transferred to a Goodyear shop in Brawley and then became store manager of the Kennedy’s for Tires store on Imperial Avenue in El Centro.
Friends and colleagues will tell you McMahon is the consummate professional. He knows his stuff, both when it comes to tires and general automobile care and when it comes to customer service.
This former Imperial Valley Press reporter had the opportunity on many occasions to interview McMahon when the Press was doing special editions on vehicle and tire safety. Without hesitation, when the newspaper had a question about tires, it sought out information from McMahon.
He is just that knowledgeable.
Mike McNeece, a longtime friend and fellow Kiwanis member, says Mike McMahon loves to be there for his customers.
“He is very customer oriented,” McNeece adds. “He is always about taking care of the hospitality.”
McNeece says whether McMahon is serving the needs of customers at his place of business or serving the needs of the community through events like the earthquake victims barbecue, he is so engaged because this community is a part of him.
“This is his roots,” McNeece notes. “It’s the community he was brought up in, and it’s the community he wants to give back to.”
Roberta Burns, another friend and president of the Kiwanis Club of El Centro, agrees, stating: “What I discovered about Mike is that he is always willing to give to the community. He is a great fundraiser, and he uses his skills to help charities.”
There’s another aspect of his life that any article about him would be remiss if it did not address, and that is … McMahon as a family man.
He and his wife have been married 32 years, and she says he has always been loving and caring toward his family. She adds he has never been a lazy man, whether it involves work at the store or involves helping around the house.
“My husband even sews,” Sharon says, adding that in his years as a scoutmaster if any of his scouts needed a patch sewed onto their uniform, and their parents could not do it, he would handle the sewing duties.
McMahon is also enjoying his time as a grandfather.
His son Michael Joseph and wife Shannon have two children, 3-year-old Michael Shamus and 5-month-old Talitha Victoria. To his grandson, McMahon is known as Grandpa String Cheese because the little boy loves string cheese and his grandfather always brings him some during visits.
Sharon sums up her husband, saying that in the end he is a happy individual who enjoys talking to people, visiting with people and he would do anything to help those in his community.
“Anything he could do to better the community he would if it was within his power,” she adds.
Copyright © 2013, Imperial Valley Press