by: MATTHEW SHERMAN - Lakeridge's Reed Garrison was a beloved figure at the school for the past 25 years and his passing has been felt by the entire community. When I started writing about high school sports for the Review, my very first story was to interview new Lakeridge football coach Joe Bushman for a coaching profile to go along with our fall previews.

I was still not far removed from college and still very much getting my feet wet in the world of reporting and, quite frankly, I was nervous.

I tentatively walked onto Lakeridge's field with my notepad just prior to the start of that afternoon's practice awaiting for Bushman to arrive, going over my pre-rehearsed questions in my head.

Just then, an elderly man in a golf cart pulled up alongside me wearing a Lakeridge hat and a big smile on his face.

He introduced himself to me as Reed Garrison, the team's equipment manager.

Reed shook my hand, welcomed me aboard at the Review, and proceeded to tell me how excited he was about that year's football team and about Lakeridge athletics in general.

He gave me a rundown of some of the top players on that year's team and a quick history on Bushman which proved invaluable to me.

I'm not sure if Reed could sense my nervousness. Confident body language has never been a strong suit of mine so I assume he did. My brief, jovial conversation with him put me very much at ease. I figured that if the majority of individuals I encountered at this job were as friendly as Mr. Garrison, things would be a breeze.

Of course this wouldn't turn out to be the case. Not because my job is filled with difficult personalities, but instead because there were very few people in this world like Reed Garrison.

After our first short meeting, Reed always had a hello for me at football or volleyball games. During a break in the action he usually had a comment to add about how well the team was playing or about how much improved they were.

Reed was an eternal optimist when it came to the Pacers. He loved every Lakeridge sports team and was equally as passionate about the school's students and athletes.

Judging from the reaction that Garrison's passing at the age of 93 received, it's obvious how much his 25 years of service meant to the Lakeridge community.

Students and friends flooded a Facebook page of Garrison's and arrangements were quickly made for the Pacers to wear honorary patches this season while an empty chair will be placed in the gym in his honor.

But Garrison always seemed genuinely shocked whenever the school reached out to express their appreciation.

When I interviewed him in 2010 for a feature story in our annual Perspective magazine, he broke down several times while talking about things the school had done for him.

He adored the letterman jacket that the Pacers gave him for his 90th birthday and was still surprised that the school even considered electing him into its athletic Hall of Fame and he said that one of the most touching moments of his life was entering the recovery room after suffering kidney failure and seeing an enormous banner with the signatures of Lakeridge students and staff members on it.

“I don't think they'll ever know what that meant to me,” he said at the time.

Garrison slowed down over the last few years as his health began to deteriorate but he was still a fixture at home sporting events and still always had a smile and a positive word for me.

It's never easy to lose your biggest fan as the Pacers have just weeks before kicking off another school year. But Lakeridge can feel fortunate that it was the beneficiary of Garrison's generosity, getting the best from the big guy with the big heart.

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