April 3, 2012

Signs point to McGrath return

It took him all of nine months before the finishing touches were made to what is inarguably the most intricate and eye-appealing sign of any kind within 50 miles, if not farther.

Matt McGrath wasn’t about to let that sign fall into disrepair. That explains why a 1975 Logansport High School graduate piled paint brushes, cans and a few clothes into an old van and drove all the way from his New Jersey home back to his hometown three states away.

When McGrath made it home, as he has several times since he left the city for the East Coast, word passed from friend to friend that he had arrived. A newspaper story about his efforts to spruce up the sign was front page news. But the person behind the sign is as much a story as anyone who calls Logansport their hometown.

Matt grew up in the 1960s and 1970s when long hair was in for men and women. When he arrived at Logansport High School in the summer of 1974, he had plenty of it. He was a sousaphone player in the band and played string bass in the jazz band, but he enjoyed playing the harmonica most.

He was and is a Type A personality. He enjoyed music and people, but not in that order. He could be engaging, entertaining and serious — sometimes in the same conversation. But the anecdotes about him are one-of-a-kind.

Once, I was told, Matt entered a basketball game as a young lad. In the closing minute of the game, Matt had played so aggressively, he committed five fouls in a minute and retired to the bench.

He was never shy about volunteering for anything, and once he volunteered to have a part in a halftime show at LHS Stadium. Matt played a bull chasing a Berryette as the band played a Herb Alpert tune, much to the delight of the crowd and the band.

His charm was legendary. The late Margaret Harmon who was a secretary to former Dean Gene Williams, once told me Matt arrived late for school many times, including once when he came into the dean’s office and said, “What can I do for you, Dean Williams?”

In high school, Matt was a survivor who knew struggles and triumphs, but friends more than anything else. He respected achievement and people who cared, and he revered people with talent of any kind. One of his personal favorites was Randy Hanley, a Logansport musician who has recorded albums. His friendship with Hanley is one that continues.

If it’s possible for high school students to have panache, Matt had it.

He once made a dress for his girlfriend out of old men’s ties. After shedding the long hair for a more establishment friendly look that trimmed his hair back to a mustache beneath black-rimmed glasses, Matt showed up at the 1975 prom in high style. He was the only student to arrive with his date in a Rolls Royce. Again, his charm had worked a miracle.

By the time he graduated, Matt was already working on a career as a sign painter. Several downtown businesses had Matt McGrath originals above their doors. It was a fitting way for a local lad with his own signature way of doing things to be creative and be appreciated.

It wasn’t long before others appreciated his creativity and spirit and he moved on to other things.

But last week, when Spring Break broke in Logansport, Matt returned to Logansport. And there on a cool Thursday evening at sunset, he could be seen applying paint with a delicate brush dipped carefuly into a Dixie cup. He was embarrassed at being so glad to see one old friend he left paint stains on his friend’s shirt. Old friends Garry Williams and Rich Voorhees were there to witness the touch-ups he added that made the gold leaf “Carousel” just a bit more golden.

It was proof that true friends never really forget you and you can take the boy out of Logansport, but you can’t take the Logansport out of the boy.

• Dave Kitchell is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached through the newspaper at

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • KITCHELL: Tax bills show what smoke & mirrors don't There's a price to be paid for the decline in what we call civic engagement -- and local property taxpayers are paying that price. In case you haven't received your 2014 Cass County property tax statement yet, be prepared for a bit of sticker shock w

    April 23, 2014

  • MARCUS: Illinois brings joy to Indiana From the email this week, I sensed a profound need by Hoosiers to find joy in the problems of Illinois. Our neighbors to the west are fighting their way through a mess of their own making. They have forced themselves to raise taxes and cut services t

    April 22, 2014

  • VILLAGE IDIOT: Wait a minute here — what did I just sign? When Dr. Sam said, "You've got the prostate of a 16-year-old," it was hard to keep from beaming. This must be how a woman feels when a complete stranger tells her she has a beautiful baby. Well, maybe not quite. Still, it was hard not to feel proud o

    April 22, 2014

  • LYONS: How we devalued the 'R' word At the risk of angering somebody like MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry, I sometimes used to joke that I only look white. Actually, I'm Irish. Meaning basically that I wasn't raised to think the man in the big house had all the answers, nor deserved all t

    April 21, 2014

  • HAYDEN: Want better teacher ratings? Ask the kids The state may be back where it started, encumbered with a flawed teacher grading system, a year after implementing what were meant to be tough new standards. That was the general consensus of the State Board of Education days after teacher evaluation

    April 21, 2014

  • KNISELY: Adventures in cat spaying If you're a regular reader of this column, you know I have a cat. I got the cat to deal with the mice. Even if you only pop in on this column from time to time, you still likely know I have mice and that I hate them. I complain about it quite regular

    April 20, 2014

  • GUTWEIN: Strengthening Indiana for Hoosier veterans America's legacy was built on the foundation created by our brave service men and women. Whether they defended our nation's borders overseas or assisted Hoosiers during the harsh winter months, we need to do everything we can to make Indiana the best

    April 20, 2014

  • CEPEDA: Baseball's sacred temple Call it a character defect, but I don't like baseball. And I especially don't like the Chicago Cubs -- losers I never found lovable. I grew up less than a mile west of Wrigley Field and games there represented summer-long inconveniences such as midda

    April 20, 2014

  • HOWEY: Doctors Brown and Bucshon become seekers Seated across the table from me at Cafe Patachou were Drs. Tim Brown and Larry Bucshon. Dr. Bucshon was a heart surgeon from Newburgh. Dr. Brown is an emergency room physician from Crawfordsville. What made this breakfast meeting extraordinary is tha

    April 20, 2014

  • WOLFSIE: High-tech got you down? I love where I bank. It's a branch inside of a big supermarket. I can make a modest withdrawal and then go and blow every last penny in the cookie aisle. The tellers at the window appreciate me. They know about my obsession with round numbers and und

    April 18, 2014

Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide

Should mushroom hunters be allowed to forage off-trail in Indiana state parks?

     View Results
Featured Ads
AP Video
Bon Jovi Helps Open Low-income Housing in Philly Pipeline Opponents Protest on National Mall Hagel Gets Preview of New High-tech Projects S.C. Man Apologizes for Naked Walk in Wal-Mart New Country Music Hall of Fame Inductees Named 'Piles' of Bodies in South Sudan Slaughter New Yorkers Celebrate Cherry Blossom Blooms SCOTUS Hears Tv-over-Internet Case Justice Dept. Broadening Criteria for Clemency Chief Mate: Crew Told to Escape After Passengers 'Miss Meadows' Takes Holmes Back to Her Roots Biden: Russia Must Stop Talking, Start Acting David Moyes Out As Manchester United Manager Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs High Court to Hear Dispute of TV Over Internet Stowaway Teen Forces Review of Airport Security

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.