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
  • COATS: What to do next with Putin, Ukraine The tragic death of 298 people on board Malaysian Airlines flight 17 in a wheat field in eastern Ukraine marks a moment when words of disapproval and expressions of grief are not enough. This is a moment when action must follow the outrage and rhetor

    July 28, 2014

  • LYONS: The most powerful men in the world? Search the phrase “the most powerful man in the world” and what comes up are photos of grotesquely over-developed weightlifters; also Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin. Awfully ironic under present circumstances. It’s a cant term TV news anchors use to

    July 28, 2014

  • CEPEDA: What are students to eat now Remember last year’s hysteria over school lunches? Administrators, cafeteria workers, students and parents across the country freaked out when — gasp! — school lunches were made healthier.News reports throughout the 2012-13 school year — when lunch s

    July 27, 2014

  • HOWEY: Rising up to meet Putin’s thuggery Any illusions I had about the progressive nature of Vladimir Putin’s Russian regime quickly dissipated when I returned to my Moscow Grand Marriott room in August 2007. Upon opening the door, I was greeted with the spectacle of my papers and note pads

    July 27, 2014

  • HAYDEN: Congress scolded for its failures Retired Congressman Lee Hamilton has warned of the perils of political ideology, calling the body where he spent 34 years “noxiously partisan.” Now, he worries the divide is downright dangerous. A co-chairman of the 9/11 Commission, Hamilton and fell

    July 27, 2014

  • DORAN: How to handle the pool problem By Terry DoranGuest columnistAs a longtime board member of the parks board and having grown up nearby, it troubles me to read of the decision to close the city pool at Tower Park. This is obviously not a new discussion. I sat in on many meetings with

    July 27, 2014

  • WOLFSIE: A trip to end all trips My wife is planning a very exciting vacation to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary. This was a big surprise to me. Not the vacation part, but the 35 years. I thought it was 34. Right now she is on the back porch, the patio table stacked high with

    July 25, 2014

  • FREY: Hero pilot still on a mission to save lives Ordinary people who live their lives, do something spectacular one day, and then embrace a great cause after retirement are tops in my book.Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III is such an individual. He is the pilot who safely landed a US Airways airplan

    July 25, 2014

  • HAMILTON: Why incumbents keep getting reelected It’s no news that Congress is unpopular. In fact, at times it seems like the only real novelty on Capitol Hill would be a jump in its approval rating. In June, a Gallup poll found members’ standing with the American people at a historic low for a mid

    July 24, 2014

  • WILLIAMS: Four-legged family I have three pets. First, Paisley, a long-haired cream and tortoise Ragdoll cat. She’s the aristocracy in our group, compared to the rest of us, who are all blue collar folks. Her movements are slow and stately and her mien is gracious. She is by far

    July 24, 2014

Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

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

Should grocery and convenience stores be allowed to sell cold beer?

     View Results
Featured Ads
AP Video
The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe

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.