Gone But Not Forgotten

by Tom Swift

“Hockey Coach Dies After Fall on Ice.”

I clipped the article under this headline from the December 18, 2018 Star Tribune. It has been sitting on my nightstand these past weeks.

I appreciate when major newspapers write feature obituaries of non-famous people. A friend remarked the other day that he had read an obit the New York Times had published recently about a man who frequently responded to provocative articles in that newspaper entirely through limericks.

I’m not sure why I saved this obit. I’m not sure why I did not recycle it along with the rest of that day’s newspaper.

The hockey coach who died was named Harv Graczyk. Graczyk, 67, the article says, had coached youth hockey in the west metro for more than 30 years. He had initially taken a job at the Osseo ice arena, which led him into coaching. He coached players ages 11 to 14.

I played hockey as a kid growing up in the north suburbs. I have many fond memories from when I was 11 to 14 years old, playing and watching the game. It’s possible, maybe even likely, that he and I crossed paths at some arena or another. Though I have no direct evidence that this happened. When I opened my newspaper that day it was the first time I read his name. I am certain I do not know how to pronounce it.

Communities exist because people give of their time, because they care about others, not just their own kids. “Grandpa Harv,” as he was known, was said to show up in arenas around the state to see his former players play. One of his neighbors ran a taxi company and when she was short of drivers, Graczyk would get behind the wheel. Says a longtime friend: “He would help people out.”[1]

I didn’t know Harv Graczyk. I can’t attest to anything about him. Maybe I saved his obit because it speaks to some part of me that is also gone.

I do know I am grateful I grew up in a community, surrounded by other communities, in which people like him cared about kids like me.

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[1] Graczyk suffered some in his last days. The fall mentioned in the headline caused a traumatic brain injury. A GoFundMe page was set up to help with his medical and funeral expenses.