From the San Francisco Chronicle:
Raymond M. McCann Tuesday, June 3, 1997
A memorial service was held today for Raymond M. McCann,
a San Francisco cable car gripman who earned an award
for heroism for saving the lives of his passengers
in a 1984 accident. Mr. McCann died last Thursday
at the age of 47 of melanoma, a particularly virulent
form of cancer.
Mr. McCann was a skilled gripman, good enough to write
the book on operating cable cars. He was also a hero,
and a man who devoted his time to helping others.
``If there was anything to be done to help people
-- raising funds, organizing events -- Ray McCann
was there,'' said Bud McNaughton, who was for many
years superintendent of the Municipal Railway's cable
Born in New York, Mr. McCann moved to San Francisco
in 1969. He attended
Skyline College in San Bruno, and received a bachelor's
degree in recreational administration from San Francisco
State University. He worked for a time as a recreational
director, specializing in at- risk youth.
In 1979, he found the job he loved best of all --
operating San Francisco's famed cable cars.
He was the perfect gripman -- strong, kind to tourists
and other passengers, and intelligent.
When the cable system was shut down for a major overhaul
in 1982, Mr. McCann
was asked to write the book on running the cars --
the Muni's first written manual
on operating cable cars. One of the chapters was on
emergencies, and in August, 1984,
Mr. McCann got his big test.
He was at the grip when an automobile roared at high
speed down the
wrong side of the Hyde Street hill and crashed head-on
into the cable car, which
was jammed with tourists. The driver of the automobile
was killed in the crash,
Mr. McCann was knocked down by the impact, and the
cable car started
rolling backward down the steep Hyde Street hill.
Conductor Charles Gertsbacher
pushed his way though the crowd, helped the dazed
and bloody Mr. McCann
to his feet and the two men pulled the emergency brake,
stopping the car --
and, the Muni's top managers said later, saving many
lives. The two men
received a heroism medal from the U.S. Department
for their feat.
Mr. McCann also spent time organizing charity events,
and one of his favorites
was a yearly luncheon for senior citizens at Old St.
Mary's Church sponsored by the cable car crews .
Mr. McCann had become gravely ill by last fall, and
at the luncheon
last Christmas he was presented with an award for
his work by Mayor Willie Brown.
Mr. McCann is survived by his wife, Kathleen, of San
Rafael, his son, Luke,
and his daughter, Elizabeth. He also leaves a sister,
Betty, of Brookville, Fla.,
three brothers, Thomas, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.,
Luke, of San Rafael, and
Robert, of Castro Valley.
(From : Who Was Important in the History of the Cable
Car? by Joe Thompson)
Ray McCann was born in New York, but moved to San
Francisco in 1969.
He loved the city and served as one of its ambassadors
when he went to
work as a cable car gripman in 1979.
During the Great Reconstruction in 1982-1984, he wrote
first manual on operating cable cars.
On 12-Aug-1984, McCann and his conductor, Charles
were taking a full load of passengers up the Hyde
Street hill when
a suicidal driver drove down the wrong side of the
street at high speed
and hit the cable car head-on.
McCann was knocked off his feet and the car rolled
down the hill. Gertsbacher fought through the crowd
and found McCann dazed and bleeding on the floor.
Together, they pulled
the emergency brake and stopped the car. The driver
died, but many others
would have, too, had it not been for the heroic action
of the gripman and conductor.
They both received medals from the US Department of
Mrs Kathleen McCann reports that "...with stitches
in his head and still bandaged
he went to the barn the day after the accident and
gripped one of the cars
for a short period of time because he felt that if
he didn't face it right away
that fear would somehow mar the deep affection he
had for working on the Cable Cars".
McCann's many charities included a yearly luncheon
for senior citizens
at Old Saint Mary's Church.
Ray McCann died on 29-May-1997 of melanoma; he was