July 31, 2014

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Palmer Field patriarch to be honored

NORTH RIDGEVILLE — Norm “Pow” Gerhart and his wife, Mona Lou, were described by one longtime friend as the patriarch and matriarch of the city’s Palmer Field baseball-softball complex.

Gerhart

Gerhart

Gerhart died last Friday at age 84.

“For years Norm and Mona Lou poured their sweat, blood and hearts into Palmer Field,” said Pat Anderson, vice president of the North Ridgeville Baseball League Inc., which is based at the field off Bainbridge Road.

“They were synonymous with the place,” Anderson said Thursday. “It was a passion for them … whatever was needed … an umpire … a coach … they did it. I’ve heard stories that Norm would be up there from 6 a.m. to midnight — he never left.”

The couple’s mission was to make sure kids had a ballfield to play on, according to Anderson, who estimates the couple devoted 20 to 25 years to the development and support of Palmer Field.

After Mona Lou died in the early 1990s, Norm, a retired sheet metal worker, continued to work at the complex, Anderson said.

A past president of North Ridgeville and Lorain County Hot Stove for many years, Gerhart was a member of the Ohio Hot Stove Hall of Fame.

Farmland for Palmer Field was donated in the late 1960s, according to Lou Vasi, another Hot Stove veteran who has known Gerhart for more than 30 years.

“They were great people,” Vasi said. “They just got up and did whatever was needed. They were both very dedicated, as was the whole family.”

Using an all-volunteer staff, Palmer Field was affiliated with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, which paid per-child fees to help support the facility where one ballfield is dedicated to the couple.

The field’s boys teams were among the charter members of Ohio Hot Stove, Anderson said.

The field also has hosted teams in the Ohio Girls Softball Association.

Today Palmer Field hosts 20 boys and girls teams that comprise the North Ridgeville Baseball League, Anderson said.

The complex also is used by North Ridgeville High School and Lake Ridge Academy and is one of the county’s largest for Hot Stove tournaments.

“There are 165 teams and 700 to 800 kids involved,” Vasi said.

All of the teams’ players who play at Palmer Field are honoring Gerhart and his wife by signing balls to be presented to the couple’s family.

A flag flown at the field has been lowered to half-staff in the Gerharts’ memory for the remainder of the season, Anderson said.

A funeral procession from St. Julie Billiart Church is set to pass through Palmer Field today en route to St. Peter Cemetery in North Ridgeville, where Gerhart will be buried.

“We’re going to have as many ballplayers in uniform up there as we can for one last goodbye,” Anderson said.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.