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Memorabilia to preserve Harrick's accomplishments for years to come

May 3, 2012

Saturday, the daughters of Joe Harrick — the only 16-time letterwinner in West Virginia University history — donated memorabilia from his playing days to the Punxsutawney Area Historical Genealogical Society. Pictured are (from left) Elmer Reed, chairman of the Board of Trustees for the society; Tom Curry, co-chairman of the society's Collections Committee; Marge (Harrick) Shenk; and Mary Ann (Harrick) Barilar. (Photo by Natalie Bruzda of The Punxsutawney Spirit)

PUNXSUTAWNEY — It would be a "virtually impossible" feat today, according to his daughter, Mary Ann Barilar.

But from 1917-1921, Joseph (Joe) V. Harrick (1895-1958), earned 16 letters during his college career at West Virginia University, and is the one and only recognized 16-time letterwinner in WVU history.

A Punxsutawney native and former Punxsy coach, Harrick's greatest feat was earning four varsity letters each in football, baseball, wrestling and track and field.

Saturday, Harrick's children honored his memory by donating memorabilia from his famous career at WVU to the Punxsutawney Area Historical & Genealogical Society.

"We wanted it to be well-preserved for the area and to be shared," Marge (Harrick) Shenk, a daughter, said.

Marge and her sister Mary Ann (Harrick) Barilar visited the Lattimer House Saturday, bringing with them a football team photo from 1919; Harrick's WVU award sweater; Harrick's WVU Sports Hall of Fame medal, received posthumously; and a program from the 2011 WVU Sports Hall of Fame induction.

Marge and Mary Ann's brothers, Bill and Joe Harrick, were unable to attend.

"We're all four in our 70s, and we just felt this was an appropriate time to put it in a place where it can be shared," Marge said.

Harrick was named to The Chicago Tribune third team All-America squad in football in 1919. He was named an honorable mention lineman on the all-century WVU football team and was tabbed a member of the 1919-29 WVU all-time football team.

Following his playing days, he coached high school athletics for 26 years.

Harrick coached football in Gary, W.Va., from 1922-24; Jeannette, from 1925-29; Johnstown, from 1930-36; and Punxsutawney, from 1936-42 and 1946-50. While he was in Johnstown, his teams lost only six games in six years, and his Punxsutawney team went undefeated in 1941. Harrick also coached baseball and track and field at Punxsutawney.

In 1998, Harrick was inducted into the Punxsutawney Sports Hall of Fame, and in 2011, he was inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame.

But the latter recognition was a difficult honor to come by.

"I thought he was qualified, but the information was 90 years old," Harrick's grandson, John Barilar, said. "The university didn't have a whole lot of records from back then. So something like that, unless someone digs that information up, (the recognition) probably isn't going to happen."

About six years ago, John began doing intensive research about his grandfather's successes at WVU.

He said he spent "hours on end," gathering up the information and putting it all together.

He contacted sports information officers — now in their 80s and 90s — who worked at the university years ago, and he interviewed family members, the best source of information being his Uncle Joe, who also played football at WVU.

"He got me the contacts," John said.

When WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck called John with the good news — that Joe Harrick would be inducted into the 2011 WVU Sports Hall of Fame — he saved the voicemail.

"It was pretty neat," John said. "I saved it so anyone else can easily hear it — the call that said he got inducted."

John said the rest of his family was also excited about the recognition. So much so, that they wanted to preserve the history.

"We wondered, what to do with the plaque? It made more sense to donate it and put it in the museum in Punxsy," John said. "It made sense to donate it there so everyone else could see his accomplishments."

Elmer Reed, chairman of the Society's Board of Trustees, said the memorabilia will be put on display at the museum from time to time so the public can come in and "be proud of what they see."

"We're very pleased to receive this gift from the family," Reed said. "It's once-in-a-lifetime to receive this, and it's very thoughtful for people to do acts like this. So many times, this type of thing is lost and ends up at an auction or a yard sale. So the family is to be thanked for preserving memories."

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