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Mr. Pacer Reed Garrison celebrates a milestone

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO, 
Reed Garrison is a beloved fixture with Lakeridge athletics and recently celebrated his 90th birthday at the school.

Reed Garrison was quite surprised when Lakeridge High School athletic director Ian Lamont asked him to come in for a conference at 9 a.m. last Wednesday morning.

After all, Garrison had just turned 90 years old, and after two decades as sports equipment manager for the Pacers he naturally assumed that everyone at Lakeridge knew he really didn't like getting up that early.

But Lamont had something to show Garrison - hundreds of students lining the hallway and cheering.

'No, not in the least did I expect anything like this,' Garrison said. 'They suckered me in. I had no idea until we got back to the Commons. Ian and I came around the corner and all of these kids were lining up.

'I can't believe that out of all those kids not one of them tipped me off.'

'Ian lied to get him there,' admitted Lakeridge principal Mike Lehman. 'Being up at 9 o'clock is definitely not a big part of Reed's routine.'

As Garrison walked down the corridor the Lakeridge kids serenaded him with the school fight song, then Happy Birthday.

Then Pacer Athletic Club president Sandi Swinford presented him a jacket with lettering that said 'No. 1,' '90,' and 'Mr. Pacer.' Lamont gave a speech about Garrison's many contributions, and finally everyone dug into a giant birthday cake.

'Reed has definitely been a feature of Lakeridge High School for a whole lot of years,' Lehman said. 'He is a real tradition.'

There probably is not another 90-year-old sports equipment manager for any other school athletic department across the nation.

And even if there is, it is highly doubtful if he brings everything that Garrison brings to the program at Lakeridge High School.

The job description 'equipment manager' only begins to describe Garrison's contribution.

'He just cares so much about the kids and Lakeridge in general,' said Mike Colson, long-time Pacer football coach and colleague of Garrison. 'He wants to help kids become as successful as they can, not just athletically, but academically as well.

'Reed gives financial help to kids who are struggling so they can play sports. He's someone who kids can talk to in confidence about things they wouldn't talk about with anyone else.'

After a long career as the director of the Oregon Potato Commission in Salem (as Colson said 'a real big wig'), Garrison moved to Lake Oswego in 1987 and thought he might try working with kids at Lakeridge.

'My intention was to help one year,' Garrison said. 'I'm still here.'

In fact, Garrison has stayed at Lakeridge so long that he has become the symbol of the school.

'People have often asked me 'What is a Pacer?',' Colson said. 'I say that it's a spirit. It is what Lakeridge is all about. Reed Garrison defines what a Pacer is. He is Mr. Pacer.'

Colson says that he has 15 years of anecdotes he could tell about Garrison, but one especially represents what he is all about.

'We were at a game in Milwaukie, and Reed was always on the sideline,' Colson said. 'He walked up to me and tugged me on the arm. I said, 'Not now, Reed, not now.' But he kept tugging on my arm and I finally said, 'Okay, what is it?' He said, 'You haven't put one of the kids into the game.' He wanted to make sure he got in.'

With a chuckle, Colson added, 'Reed went over the line a couple times, but in this case he was totally right.'

Garrison survived the enormous surprise of his monster bash in excellent shape, and he intends to go right on being Mr. Pacer.

'I've enjoyed every minute of my time at Lakeridge,' Garrison said. 'The kids are wonderful and the administration has been out of sight.

'I hope I'm still around when they open that new football stadium. Or else I'll be watching it through the clouds.

'Either way, I'll be watching.'