December 21, 2014

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Longtime North Ridgeville teacher, coach remembered

Bill Harnish

Bill Harnish

NORTH RIDGEVILLE — William Harnish was remembered this week as a guy who gave of himself and his talents in the classroom as well as on countless ballfields.

Harnish, a longtime teacher and city recreation activist, died Monday at age 69 of an apparent heart attack.

Harnish was described by Maria Sycz as a quiet man “who knew so many people. He touched so many lives in one way or another, from school to sports to friendships.

“He will definitely be missed in this community in a lot of ways,” said Sycz, who served alongside Harnish on the North Ridgeville Board of Education from 2006 to 2008.

Both Sycz and City Councilman Dennis Boose were surprised to hear of Harnish’s death.

“I knew he was sick for a while, but we had just seen him out to dinner recently with family and he seemed to be doing well,” Sycz said.

Both also recalled what they described as Harnish’s perennially upbeat personality.

“He always had that smile on his face and always had sayings,” Sycz said.

One in particular she remembered was: “Every day is a holiday, and every meal is a feast.”

“That sticks in my head,” Sycz said.

“Whenever I ran into him, he always had that smile and a story to tell you,” Boose said. “He always made time for you.”

A business teacher in the city schools for 35 years, Harnish was elected to the school board in November 2005. Harnish stepped down in 2008 due to health concerns arising from a condition known as pulmonary interstitial fibrosis, which was significantly affecting his lung capacity.

“Basically, my lungs are dying long before the rest of my body,” Harnish said in a November 2008 Chronicle-Telegram story.

Harnish received a new lung in 2009, according to Sycz and Boose.

Ironically, his youngest daughter, Nicole, who now is at North Ridgeville High School, received a kidney from her mother and Harnish’s wife, Sue, when she was 1 year old.

Former North Ridgeville Parks and Recreation Department Director Sandy Gast recalled knowing Harnish when she worked as supervisor at the South Central Park swim lake.

Gast, who served as parks director after Harnish from 1985 to 1990, recalled him as dedicated.

“Parks and Rec was his fulltime job in the summer and a part-time job in the winter (when he was teaching school),” Gast said.

As a father of six children, Harnish spent many years immersed in their assorted sports in and out of school.

“He was really involved in all of their activities,” Gast said. “He was an energetic, good guy, and a very supportive boss.”

Once the post of parks and rec director was turned into a full-time position, Harnish had to step aside due to his job as a teacher.

Gast and Boose took particular note of the work Harnish put in to help develop South Central Park and the Shady Drive baseball complex.

“He was instrumental in (developing) the Shady Drive complex,” Boose said.

Ron Nenadal of the North Ridgeville Baseball Boosters agreed.

“He cared a lot about the kids in the (city baseball) program as demonstrated by the way he worked on establishing the Shady Drive complex,” Nenadal said.

Nenadal also told a humorous story of the time Harnish announced the Rangers’ football game against Vermilion in which a North Ridgeville ball carrier was stopped by “a ship load of Sailors.”

“The fans didn’t understand the wording over the loudspeakers and mistook the shipload of Sailors for something else,” Nenadal said.

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