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Jack Garrott provided quiet example for others to follow

February 25, 2008|By MARLO BARNHART

Editor's Note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about John H. "Jack" Garrott Sr., who died Feb. 12 at the age of 82. His obituary was published in the Feb. 15 edition of The Herald-Mail.

Looking back over the rich, full life that defined Jack Garrott, his youngest son, Bill - the Dominican priest of the family - said there is one memory of his father that literally shaped his life.

"As we were growing up, there were many times we saw our father kneeling by his bedside to say his night prayers," Bill said from his office in Washington, D.C.

Once Bill and his seven siblings were grown, they asked him about that practice.

"He admitted he purposely left the bedroom door open so his children would see that their father always needed God's help each day," Bill said.

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These and other warm memories surfaced as the family gathered in Hagerstown to support each other just days after Jack's death in Florida on Feb. 12 at the age of 82.

"Dad treated each and every person as the special man, woman or child that they were," daughter Mary Taylor said. "Through his example, I've done the same, and it's helped me tremendously."

Youngest daughter Ellen Castellano remembered how her father intervened to help save St. Maria Goretti High School in the mid-1970s when it was in danger of closing due to low enrollment.

Perhaps it was that experience that helped Jack step up when The Maryland Theatre was days away from the wrecking ball, with buyers poised to purchase the bricks.

Jack and about 20 others incorporated as the Committee to Save the Maryland Theatre, raising money and securing grants that ultimately led to its restoration and entry of the South Potomac Street building onto the National Register of Historic Places.

Long before he made his mark on the lives of his children, his community and business associates, Jack went on a fateful blind date and made an impression on a pretty young nurse from Waynesboro, Pa., at a New Year's Eve party in the late 1940s.

"I was nursing at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore making $8 a day then," Ann Price Garrott said. She had bought a black floor-length dress from Hutzler's in Baltimore with her hard-earned wages and was hoping to be asked to the big country club dance in Hagerstown.

"We fell for each other immediately," Ann said. They were married in 1948 and began their family quickly.

At that time, Jack was a student at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. Hoping for a career in design or architecture, Jack instead went to work for the family business - Four States Livestock Auction in Hagerstown, with three other locations in the Tri-State area.

Still, he never let go of his avocations, which he combined with his strong sense of involvement in the works of his community and his church.

The Maryland Theatre odyssey began with a casual conversation on his front porch, where he learned that the historic building was in imminent danger of being razed.

That effort, coupled with his long involvement in downtown improvement, increased parking, economic development and, of course, his business interests didn't detract from his strong family loyalties.

"Dad was always available to talk," daughter Louisa Chambers said. "He'd stop what he was doing and make time for us."

Barbara DeGaetano's special growing-up memory was of Christmas and how her father made trimming the tree a fun and enjoyable event.

"I've enjoyed building things such as the basketball hoop for my garage," son John H. Garrott Jr. said. "I explained what I wanted to do and dad mailed me some drawings - with his drawings and telephone advice," the hoop got installed.

Lois Snyder said her father went to great lengths for family unity, many times through prayer and good advice.

"He put a lot of effort into solving rifts and disagreements - dad worked hard to keep us together," Lois said.

In 1964, Jack, Ann and five of their children piled into a school bus that Jack remodeled so they could travel in comfort to the World's Fair in New York.

"It had a full kitchen, a bathroom and slept eight," Ann said. "Jack did all the work himself."

Susan Brown said she relished the fact that she was able to fit between her father and the left-side mirror.

"I felt as though I was driving the bus, too," Susan said.

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