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
  • 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

  • Holly Sklar SKLAR: Small businesses want minimum wage increase If Congress actually listened to small business owners, the minimum wage would be going up. Instead, July 24 will mark five years without an increase since the federal minimum wage was set at $7.25 an hour in 2009.Small business livelihoods depend on

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • KITCHELL: Reaction times change, but motorists don't Earlier this year, I came home one afternoon to find the worst accident on North Street I can ever recall.A bevy of police cars and four flatbed trucks were removing the pawns in an accident that damaged four vehicles. It was a bit unusual considerin

    July 23, 2014

  • MARCUS: Tax simplification is no simple matter The governor and his select invitees to his closed tax conference last month praised simplifying Indiana’s tax code. It is an idea better loved by Americans than baseball, apple, pie or motherhood.There is no question that our national and state tax

    July 22, 2014

  • VILLAGE IDIOT: The sheer dumbness of an enormous dome There is a TV series about an entire town trapped under a giant, mysterious crystal-clear dome that appears out of the blue one day. The dome is impenetrable; no one can get in, no one can get out. Who made the dome? Aliens? God? A super-secret branc

    July 22, 2014

  • HAYDEN: Road to funding Indiana highways jammed If you’ve driven on either of Indiana’s two busiest interstates recently, you’ll understand why a blue-ribbon commission last week called for adding traffic lanes to those harrowing highways.The report, issued by the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Panel on T

    July 21, 2014

  • LYONS: When academic committees play 'police' If one believes even a significant fraction of the horror stories in the national news media, beastly male behavior has become almost epidemic on American college campuses. Tales of drunken sexual assaults and worse multiply from sea to shining sea.E

    July 21, 2014

Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

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

The Pence administration continues to cut Indiana agency budgets despite a state surplus of $2 billion. Is this wise management of state funds?

Not sure
     View Results
Featured Ads
AP Video
Dempsey: Putin May Light Fire and Lose Control In Case of Fire, Oxygen Masks for Pets Mobile App Gives Tour of Battle of Atlanta Sites Anti-violence Advocate Killed, but Not Silenced. Crashed Air Algerie Plane Found in Mali Arizona Prison Chief: Execution Wasn't Botched Calif. Police Investigate Peacock Shooting Death Raw: Protesters, Soldiers Clash in West Bank Police: Doctor Who Shot Gunman 'Saved Lives' 'Modern Family' Star on Gay Athletes Coming Out MN Twins Debut Beer Vending Machine DA: Pa. Doctor Fired Back at Hospital Gunman Raw: Iowa Police Dash Cam Shows Wild Chase Obama Seeks Limits on US Company Mergers Abroad Large Family to Share NJ Lottery Winnings U.S. Flights to Israel Resume After Ban Lifted Official: Air Algerie Flight 'probably Crashed' TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans Raw: National Guard Helps Battle WA Wildfires Raw: Ukraine's Donetsk Residents Flee

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.