CANFIELD, Ohio – A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, October 14, 2017 at St. Christine Church for Manuel Anthony “Mike” Garcia, 87, who passed away peacefully on Saturday, October 7, 2017 surrounded by his loving family.
Friends and family may pay their respects from 8:30 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. on Saturday, October 14, prior to Mass.
Born in Youngstown on August 22, 1930 to James and Anna (Giordano) Garcia, Mike was a humble, first generation, Italian-Spanish American who grew up on Youngstown’s east side.
His sense of humor and wit were evident from a young age. His silly jokes and comical antics were part of his daily routine throughout his 87 years.
He attended Lincoln Grammar School and graduated from East High School in 1948, where he was a member of the debate team, drama club and played center on the varsity football team.
Mike proudly served his country in both the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Army.
He played football at the Great Lakes U.S. Naval Training Center. When his Army Reserve Unit was activated during the Korean War, he was stationed in London. He traveled extensively throughout Europe and spent several weeks in Galicia, Spain with his extended family. There, he embraced the Spanish heritage and language of his father. While on leave, he married his high school sweetheart and love of his life, Anna Marie “Ann” Baldelli, on September 13, 1952.
He returned home, attended Mount Union College and graduated in 1957. He played football for the Mount Union Purple Raiders and was a member of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. During his college years, he and Ann were chosen to live in the residence of Ohio Supreme Court Judge William Hart, while Judge Hart served his term in Columbus.
After securing a position at Austintown Fitch High School in 1957, Mike and his family settled in Canfield and remained there for 52 years. He taught at Austintown Fitch High School for 33 years.
He began his coaching career as a freshman football coach and accepted the head track and field position in 1966. During this time, Mike earned his master’s degree in education from Kent State University.
Although Mike had much success with track and field, his greatest notoriety came from his cross country teams and distance runners. He piloted the cross country program in 1968, and from then on, Coach Mike Garcia made history. He won the Ohio “AAA” State Championship in 1971, 1972 and 1975, and finished runner-up in 1970 and 1974. These victories made Mike one of the most winning cross country coaches in the nation. During his tenure at Austintown Fitch, his records were unsurpassed.
His overall combined achievements include 490 total wins, 101 major championships, 42 runner-ups, 20 Steel Valley Conference championships, 11 Sectional and seven District championships.
He produced four individual state champions, of whom, one was a three year consecutive state champion and also was the top high school distance runner in the nation. A large number of his athletes went on to be college All-Americans. Mike also introduced the girls cross country program at Austintown Fitch in the 1980s and thoroughly enjoyed their enthusiasm and success.
After retiring, Mike was an assistant cross country and track coach at Howland High School for several years.
Mike was personally honored many times over the years for his coaching acumen. He was inducted into the Ohio High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame, Curbstone Coaches Hall of Fame, Fitch High School Hall of Fame and East High School Hall of Fame. He also received the Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches “Coach of the Year” Award in 1985 and the Longevity Award for coaching 90 plus seasons of track and field and cross country.
He was recognized for his accomplishments with articles in “Runner’s World,” “Track & Field News” and “Boy’s Life” magazines.
He was a board member of the Ohio High School Athletic Association and is credited with spearheading positive changes in rules that govern cross country and track and field that are still in effect today.
Mike formed the Tag-A-Long Booster Club, which specifically supported Fitch track and cross country, and together they fundraised to have the first all-weather track installed in the Valley. He organized distance running camps during the summer which attracted runners from all over. He started The Early Bird Track Meet which later became the Annual Optimist Track Meet, and the Falcon Tri-State Classic Invitational, which was a premier track and field event that showcased the top athletes from Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Widely known and respected by his peers, Mike made many positive contributions to the running community and the Austintown community at large.
As a pioneer of the running phenomenon in the Mahoning Valley, Mike’s charismatic personality, positive attitude and unfailing determination created the perfect atmosphere that took hold at Fitch and lead to his overwhelming success. He mentored countless athletes, many of them earned college scholarships and fulfilled their life dreams and goals.
Mike’s passion and enthusiasm was greatly influenced early in his career by “The Power of Positive Thinking.” He not only used his methods to motivate and encourage his own athletes, but he became a motivational speaker and shared his knowledge to help other athletes succeed. It was his play book for life.
Mike was a charter member of St. Michael Church.
He loved the outdoors, his pets and enjoyed vegetable gardening. He spent much of his time after retirement traveling, reading and enjoying his grandchildren and family.
Mike is survived by his children, James (Barbara) Garcia of Twinsburg, Mary Alice “Mimi” (Dr. James) Kerrigan of Boardman, Suzanne “Suzy” (Morton) Madison of Austin, Texas and his grandchildren, John, Christine and Jimmy Kerrigan and Alex Madison, all who adored their “Poppy.” He also leaves his sister, Edith (Ed) DiGregorio and many loving nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his beloved wife of 64 years, Anna Marie “Ann” (Baldelli) Garcia and his parents.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions may be made to Lifebanc, 4775 Richmond, Cleveland, OH 44128 or St. Joseph the Provider School, 1125 Turin St., Youngstown, OH 44510.
Mike’s family would like to extend a special thank you to the Reese family and the entire staff at Briarfield Manor for providing a warm and loving home environment, and to the McGuire family and MVI Hospice for their kindness and compassion during Mike’s illness.
Visit http://www.higgins-reardon.com to send condolences.
Arrangements are by the Higgins-Reardon Funeral Homes, Boardman-Canfield Chapel.
A television tribute will air Friday, October 13 at the following approximate times:
6:41 a.m. WYTV and 8:41 a.m. MyYTV and 9:58 a.m. on FOX plus two additional spots throughout the day.