Parents with children participating in St. Croix Valley Athletic Association sports can thank long
time Stillwater businessman Robert McGarry II for starting the program that gives elementary school students access to organized sports.
McGarry, 79, died Friday from complications following surgery, according to his son, Rob McGarry. Funeral services are 11 a.m. Thursday at Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater. Arrangements are with Simonet Funeral Home.
McGarry’s death surprised many of his friends and acquaintances.
“Obviously, I was very sad. I knew he was having trouble,” said Dick Olsen. “It’s the end of a great friendship.”
“I was shocked,” added George Thole, retired Stillwater High School football coach. “I got a call Saturday from Dick Olsen. I didn’t know anything was going on.”
Robert McGarry III said his father was in good health when he underwent two surgeries for different problems about two months ago. Rob McGarry added that his father’s health problems occurred after the surgeries.
Robert McGarry II ran McGarry Kearney Insurance Agency, a 112-year-old business considered the third-oldest in Stillwater behind the Gazette and Simonet Funeral Home, for more than 30 years, his son said.
“He took it over from his dad when his dad passed and he was close to 20,” Rob McGarry said.
“The McGarry family and the Olsen family go back four generations together in the insurance business,” Olsen added.
Olsen said he met Robert McGarry II when the two men were in high school.
“I knew Bob, he was a senior when I was a sophomore. I knew him since about 1950,” Olson said.
As businessmen, Olsen said he and McGarry were involved with the Greater Stillwater Chamber of Commerce, with both men serving terms as chamber presidents.
“We worked on many non-profit ventures,” Olsen said.
McGarry established the Jerry McGarry Award presented to an outstanding senior player on the Stillwater Ponies boys basketball team in memory of his brother, who was killed in Vietnam. Olsen said the two were involved in a scholarship awarded to a boys basketball player.
Robert McGarry II also was a co-founder of the Valley Athletic Association, the forerunner to today’s SCVAA.
“It was just his interest in athletics, particularly in local athletics,” Olsen said. “His son played (football) at Notre Dame. His two grandsons played for Minnesota.”
“I think it was to organize a sports outlet for kids,” said Rob McGarry. “There wasn’t anything (at the time). This was pre-junior high stuff. At that time, it was organized for fifth- and sixth-grade football. Eventually, it branched out to other sports.
“Basically, it was just getting equipment,” Rob McGarry added. “I think he was proud to be one of those who initiated it.”
“He loved football. So that’s how we hit it off really good,” Thole said.
Rob McGarry said he bought his father’s interest in the agency in 1993, adding that his parents bought a home in Arizona where they stayed during the winter. But retirement failed to slow his father down, he noted.
Robert McGarry II and Olsen published a book, “Pony Tales From the Sidelines to the Stands,” filled with stories about SHS athletics. Rob McGarry said his father and Olsen wrote their book so more people could learn Ponies’ sports history.
“They said, ‘Instead of us telling these stories about high school stuff, why don’t we talk to others and put it together in a book’,” Rob McGarry said.
Besides son Rob McGarry and his wife, Jenny, Robert McGarry II is survived by his wife, Glenice; daughters, Shannon (Kevin) Seggelke, Marci (William) Twiss, Monica (Robert) Jones; a sister, Marilyn (Robert) Gelhar; grandchildren, Josh (Lindsay), Robert, JJ (Melissa) Seggelke, Robert IV (Elin), Collin, and Kelly McGarry; great-grandson, Patrick Joshua Seggelke; sister-in-law, Shirley Nelson, and many nieces and cousins.
Thole and Olsen both said Robert McGarry’s passing will be felt by McGarry’s family, friends and the community.
“I’ve known him for 40 years. Bob was a stand-up guy,” Thole said.
“He was a good great guy and will be missed not only by me, but by the whole community,” Olsen said. “I will personally miss him. There’s many in the community that will join in missing him.”