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Roland 'Strap' McKinsey

August 29, 2009|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 Roland "Strap" McKinsey, who died Aug. 21 at the age of 88. His obituary was published in the Aug. 22 edition of The Herald-Mail.

When Sigrid Rinehart married Roland "Strap" McKinsey in 1947, she was introduced early on to the reality that life with her new husband would forever be entwined with sports.

"On their honeymoon, they stayed in a hotel in New York where the Yankees often stayed," said "Mick" McKinsey, one of Strap's sons. "Dad spent time in the lobby hoping he'd see one (of the Yankees)."

Jody, the couple's firstborn child, was named after Joe DiMaggio ... since she was a girl.

"I was named after Mickey Mantle," Mick said.

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When Gary was born in 1961, the trend was broken because Strap didn't care much for that year's big Yankee star, Roger Maris, or the couple's youngest would have been named Roger.

"Mick and Jody named me," Gary said.

Born in Hagerstown in 1921, Strap was a standout in track and field, earning several medals. But his favorite sport to watch and follow was baseball.

"He spent hours pitching and catching with me in the yard," Mick said, remembering times when he and his father would be the only ones on a Little League field practicing.

"He was always there for us as a dad," Gary said.

That tradition continued as the children grew. Jody suffers from early-onset Alzheimer's disease and while she is in a nursing home, she always has been included in family events.

Then, Sig's health began to falter, leading to her death in 2004.

"He missed mom so much. They went everywhere together," Mick said, noting that Strap cared for her at the end.

Gary said the doctor told them his mother lived as long as she did because of Strap's care.

Now that Strap is gone, the family figures there never will be an answer to how he got that nickname.

"He wouldn't tell us, only that he got it in the Navy is all we know," Gary said.

Some family members called him Roland, but to everyone else, he was Strap.

His jobs included 22 years at Mack Trucks and a long stint as clubhouse manager for the Hagerstown Suns.

In 1958, Strap was president of the Sharpsburg Bluebirds semipro baseball team, having also played for that team earlier.

More baseball playing and coaching followed at Valley Little League and the Funkstown American Legion in baseball, and St. Maria Goretti High School in basketball.

Throughout his life, Strap remained an avid Yankee fan.

"Dad did everything 150 percent," Mick said.

While Gary said he didn't play sports much, he was a big sports fan.

"Dad didn't miss many games and neither did I," Gary said.

In 1995, Gary got married. His wife, Tracy, was an athlete and is the physical education teacher at Maugansville Elementary School.

"I didn't have to convert her to baseball," Gary said. "Football ... now that is a different story."

Tracy said her father-in-law was quite a jokester.

"I was not sure how to take him sometimes," she said.

But Strap often remarked to Gary that he had married a good woman.

Mick and his wife, Nancy, have been married since 1989. She also didn't always know how to react to Strap's sense of humor, but she quickly caught on to the sports enthusiasm into which she married.

"Mick and I went to the horse races on our honeymoon," Nancy said. "That's when I knew what it was like to be Sig."

Nancy also said she always will remember how Strap could relate to anyone of any age or status in life.

Strap's grandchildren called him "Pappy Strap."

"He always asked how the babies were -- he was all about the babies," Gary said.

The memory of Strap's quick wit and winning smile will live on with his family members.

"Dad was always called a colorful figure," Mick said. "He was like a lifelong friend after a short time."

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