The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio


May 25, 2013

A Don McCormack column: A leap of faith

Seventy-four years ago tomorrow, Bob Garvey won a state championship. But that didn't define his life


Also a champion at life

Though Bob Garvey was a state champion, that was not the highlight of his life.

Not by a longshot.

He was born the son of Troy and Monica (Roche) Garvey on Jan. 24, 1921.

Having grown up with brothers Thomas and Joseph and sister Mary (Buckey) during the Great Depression, he spent his life overcoming obstacles.

To the point he was a true American hero.

Garvey served as a captain with the combat engineers in the European Theatre.

For his service to his country, Garvey earned a Purple Heart, a European Theatre ribbon and two Bronze Stars.

Unfortunately, World War II did take its toll as it nearly claimed his life.

Garvey survived, but returned home having lost a leg in the conflict.

For many men, that would send them spiraling down a vast chasm of despair, but not the former Harbor standout athlete.

He refused to look back, choosing instead to get on with his life.

He married the former Helen Young on June 25, 1954 and the couple had a son, Patrick, who was born on Feb. 23, 1955.

The loss of a leg did not stop Garvey from working, as he was a supervisor at the Detrex and SCM chemical companies for years, retiring in 1980.

He also found the time to serve as commissioner of the Ashtabula Little League.

“I had the pleasure to know Mr. Garvey from when I started to play Little League baseball from 1965-1972,” Pat Giannell, who attended St. John High School said.  “Also, I got to know his son, Pat, very well.

“Pat Garvey was one of the best baseball players to come out of Ashtabula. His arm is legendary for people who played with or against him throughout his career.”

Despite knowing Bob Garvey and his son well, Giannell was not aware how his pal’s father ended up with a limp.

Because he never mentioned it.

“I knew Mr. Garvey all those years and did not realize the injury he sustained in World War II,” Giannell said. “All I remember is him and many other fathers working on the Little League fields so the kids in Ashtabula could play baseball.”

Patrick Garvey followed in his footsteps, becoming a tremendous high school baseball player for the Ashtabula Panthers.

The 1973 Ashtabula graduate was good enough to be drafted in the fourth round — the 96th player taken overall — by the Cincinnati Reds in the spring draft that year.

Unfortunately, arm injuries plagued Pat and he was forced to give up the game after spending three seasons in Cincinnati’s farm system.

Pat died tragically at age 46 on June 2, 2001 at his home in Marietta.

“If it were not for people like Bob Garvey, Walt Carle, Leonard Milano, Ray Peet and Red Mathews, to name a few, I would not have had the opportunities to play college baseball and develop the love for the game of baseball,” Giannell said.

“I played organized baseball until I was 32 years old because I played for ‘the love of the game’ that was instilled in me by a generation of unselfish, caring, great Americans.”

Even without knowing of Bob Garvey’s heroic service to his country, Giannell said Garvey was indeed a role model to the youth of this community.

“People like Bob Garvey and the above-mentioned others are the real heroes in our society,” he said. “I was so fortunate to grow up in Ashtabula because of the people who devoted their time to kids.

“Mr. Garvey was always around our American Legion games, even though his son, Pat, was in the Reds’ system.”

And it wasn’t simply respecting the game that Garvey and his peers imparted, Giannell said.

“One thing that stands out in my mind about the opening-day ceremonies at Cederquist Park when I was very young was the national anthem would be played,” he said. “And our coaches would always tell us to respect the flag and how to conduct ourselves when that song was played.”

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