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Henry Garvey

It's official — Henry Garvey will be the second
referee to join ACBF Hall of Fame

Staff Writer

Very few people knew the area sports scene as Henry Garvey did before he retired.

That's because Garvey got to see the good athletes in three sports as an official — football, basketball and track — for 40 years.  Garvey, now 85 and living in Naples, Fla., also officiated a fourth sport, wrestling, for a while, though he admits he didn't like that job very well and gave it up.

It is as a basketball official that Garvey will be inducted into the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation Hall of Fame on April 10 at Conneaut's Human Resources Center.  That seems appropriate since basketball is the sport he enjoyed the most.

He is the second person to be inducted into the Hall of Fame as an official.  Ange Candela, inducted last year, was the first.

Garvey grew up in Andover and played basketball, baseball and track there (the school was too small for a football team), before graduating in 1939.

"We won a couple of county (basketball) tournaments when I was in high school," Garvey said.  "It was nothing exceptional, but we were at the top most of the time."

Garvey began at Ohio State after graduating from Andover, studying physical education.  But World War II intervened.

"The war came along and grabbed me," Garvey said.  "I went into the Army in 1942 and got out in 1946."

The Army placed Garvey in the Coast Artillery, the 101st Anti-Aircraft Battalion.  

"We had 40-millimeter aircraft guns," he said.  "I was the gun sergeant, in charge of a gun crew of 15-16 men."

The first duty Garvey's unit drew was on Terminal Island in Los Angeles Harbor, protecting the McDonald-Douglass Aircraft plant from a potential attack from the Japanese.

From there his unit, Battery B, went overseas, to Port Busby, Australia; French Haven, New Guinea and then to 

the Philippine Islands, protecting United States airplanes from attack.

"Manila's harbor was a very busy shipping port," Garvey said.  "The big supply depots had to have protection."

Despite the threat, Battery B never shot a plane down.

"We shot a boat up in Manila Harbor," Garvey said.  "I have no idea if it was Japanese.  It was 2 o'clock in the morning and we were on red alert.  Everyone manned their battle stations, the searchlights came on, we fired and blew the boat to smithereens.  We had no idea who it was.  There was a lot of smuggling going on."

When Garvey got out of the Army in 1946, he went to work at Andover's General Electric plant.

"I didn't like shift work," Garvey said.  "I applied for my insurance license got my license and went to work for Nationwide Insurance.  I worked there for 40 years."

When he was in his late 20s, he started officiating, in baseball at first.  He was supposed to play in a basketball game, but broke a finger playing softball.

"They didn't have refs, so they asked me," Garvey said.  "I said I couldn't do it, but they said, ‘C'mon, try it.' I tried it, didn't think it was so bad and kept doing it.  The Conneaut athletic director, Andy Garcia, told me to get a license."

Soon, Garvey had licenses to officiate basketball, football, baseball and wrestling.

"But four sports was too many," he said.  "I couldn't keep up.  I probably did baseball 43 or 44 years, basketball and football about 40 and wrestling only seven years.  I didn't care for that.  It was new to northeastern Ohio and not many schools had it."

No one was about to get rich officiating high school sports.  In football, for example, Garvey was paid $7.50 per game when he started, an amount that was gradually raised until it reached $35 by the time he retired.

"When we worked a high school playoff game, they paid $50 a game plus 22 cents a mile," Garvey said of his biggest payday."

When Garvey began officiating, high school football games had just three officials.  By the time he retired, there were six or seven.  In basketball, the number was raised from two to three.

"It was better after (the change)," Garvey said.

While Garvey was officiating, the gymnasiums improved, too.

"I remember that Ashtabula played all of its games down at West Junior High.  The gym ceiling was only 25 feet high.  Harbor didn't have a gymnasium but a church they played in.  Conneaut had Lakeside Gym, with poles in the middle of the floor.  If you hit a pole, you just kept playing."

The whole style of basketball has changed, too, Garvey said.

"Basketball isn't basketball anymore," he said.  "There's very little strategy, except for a 7-4 guy dunking the ball.  They all do it.  It used to be a technical foul to grab the rim.  Now, it's OK to grab it and swing on it."

Garvey also thinks modern-day rules allow for more handchecking and moving screens.

"A lot of things about basketball are different," he said.  "They used to have a jump ball, now there's a possession arrow.  That's probably a good rule change.  We had the 10-second and three-second rules, but not the five-second rule.  We went from gyms that were little bandboxes to regulation 90-by-50-foot gyms.  That's the reason they made some of the changes.

"Coaching has changed, too.  Coaches nowadays are recruiters, college and high school coaches.  They have summer camps.  Down here (in Naples, Fla.) they have the gym open year-round.  You can go in anytime.  We used to have an outdoor court in back of Conneaut High School."

Despite his age, Garvey still is involved in high school sports.  In Naples, Fla., where he now lives, he serves as a spotter in the press box for the local football team, the Naples Golden Eagles, who won their division's state championship in 2001.

Garvey and his wife, Louise (nee Babcock), celebrated their 60th anniversary on Feb.  1.  Henry and Louise have known each other since they were second-graders in Andover.  They got married in El Paso, Texas, in 1945, when Henry was taking a course.

They have five children, Jeffrey, at 58 the oldest, is a retired teacher living in Sandusky.  Janice, 53, lives in Little Falls, Minn., where her husband works.  Gloria, 52, and Mary Jane, 49, live in Naples, about 150 miles south of Tampa on the gulf side of the state, near Henry and Louise.  Julie, the youngest, lives in Tampa, with her husband, who works for a pharmaceutical company, Abbott Laboratories.

Mary Jane's husband is a teacher in Naples.  Henry and Louise live in Naples because they visited Gloria and her husband, David Flick (formerly of North Kingsville) in Naples and fell in love with the place.

"It's beautiful weather, 80 degrees today," Henry told a reporter on the first day of spring in northeastern Ohio, when the temperature failed to reach 40 degrees here.

Henry golfs free since he works as a ranger and starter two or three days a week at Quail Village Golf Course near his home.  

"They even pay me," he said.  "I couldn't afford golf down here — $100 a round at the better golf courses."

Garvey knew many of the players in various sports who have since moved on to bigger and better things.  One he remembers well is Geneva High School basketball player Gary Kreilach, who later became head boys basketball coach at St.  John High School.

"He was one of the finest players and gentlemen that I met in any sport," Garvey said.

One of the officials on Garvey's football crew was Bob Smith, who worked with Garvey for many years.  

"I was the linesman for many years, then became the line judge," Smith said.  "Henry was the referee.  He was our rules interpreter for all those years.  

"He was a good official who was highly respected, a good man to work with.  He knew the rules and could quote all the rules."

George Riser, head football coach at Riverside for many years, also speaks highly of Garvey.  Riser, now retired but a competitor in the national masters track circuit, specifically requested Garvey to officiate his football games over the years.

"He was just a top official," Riser said.  "He was a gentleman.  He had it all and was a tip-top person on top of that.  I'm real happy he's going into (the Hall of Fame)."

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