Michael Garbutt savored some of the most delicious flavors of life.
He was an accomplished cook but loved dining out, too. He traveled to some of Europe’s most desirable destinations. He absorbed histories and biographies and amazed friends with his ability to recall intriguing facts. He took delight in Broadway shows and great museums. He was a sparkling conversationalist at parties and had a wide circle of friends.
Michael Lewis Garbutt, 64, died June 28 at his Atlanta home of a heart attack. A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. July 20 at the Little Chapel of Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church. He will be buried at Sunset Hill Cemetery in Valdosta. A.S. Turner & Sons Funeral Home and Crematory is in charge of arrangements.
“Mike was very much a self-made man, relying on his intelligence and the way he retained information to get ahead,” said his older sister, Frances Maughon of Atlanta. “Both our parents died when Mike was growing up in Valdosta, and while he stayed for a time there with his older brothers, they were working and weren’t around their house a lot. So Mike often had to fend for himself.”
Even though Garbutt’s vision was poor, he was accepted into the U.S. Army and sent to Vietnam, where he worked in a military office. On his return to Valdosta, he tried several jobs there and eventually moved to Atlanta.
Maughon said her brother developed a mostly self-taught proficiency with computers, which enabled him to become operations manager of information services for the Georgia Department of Labor. He retired from that position nine years ago.
In 1978 he and his partner, Eugene Abshier, started a dinner club with close friends Chrys and Keith Graham of Atlanta, a group that continues to this day with a slightly expanded membership.
“The idea was each of us would cook something special and share it with the rest of us,” Chrys Graham said. Garbutt’s contribution was usually of French origin and done to gourmet standards, she added.
Another friend, Rita Oliver of Atlanta, said Garbutt was just as proud of the home cooking he learned from his mother. If a friend was sick, he could count on Garbutt to come to his aid “with a serving of Michael’s special chicken and dumplings,” Oliver said.
Garbutt also traveled with the Grahams on four trips to France, one to Italy’s Tuscan region and one to Croatia’s charming coast. “Michael was very much at home in Paris. He learned some French as a schoolboy and taught himself more of the language as an adult,” Chrys Graham said.
Keith Graham said that even more than going to museums and the theater, he thought Garbutt liked sitting outside cafes, just people-watching and talking with friends.
“Those conversations almost always expanded to include total strangers,” he added. “Michael always immersed himself in the local milieu wherever he went.”
Garbutt “was one of those people you want to sit next to at parties,” said mystery novelist Kathy Hogan Trocheck of Atlanta.
“Michael was a great conversationalist and had an infectious laugh,” she said. “He was kind and amazingly thoughtful, but just the same he enjoyed a little naughty gossip.”
Abshier, Garbutt’s partner of 29 years, died in 2004. Aside from his sister, there are no other immediate survivors.