A man dedicated to unifying the community, the late John W. Garnes Sr., can best be described as iconic for the legacy he left in Marion. He was honored this past June during the Celebrate Marion Gala in posthumous recognition of his many contributions to Marion.
“He had such genuineness about him that it was off-the-charts,” said his son, John W. Garnes II. “He could relate to everyone – all kinds of people. It was his gift.”
Before his decades of career and community service in Marion, Garnes was born in Kenton, grew up in Findlay, served in the Army, and moved to Los Angeles to pursue his California dream.
While there, he was introduced by mutual friends to a young lady from Washington D.C., Elaine DuBose, on the second night of her vacation there. They spent the rest of her vacation together, and on her second visit to Los Angeles, Garnes knew she was “the one” and asked for her hand in marriage. Shortly thereafter, the two were married in Findlay, but remained in Los Angeles until after the birth of their second son, David. In 1973, as a family, they moved to Marion, where they lived for 40 years.
In Marion, Garnes began working as a foreman at the B.F. Goodrich tire factory in Green Camp – until he found his calling in job placement at the Ohio Bureau of Employment Services. Beginning in 1979, he worked there for 10 years; then, joined the Private Industry Council as their job placement director, where he first retired from in 1997. Wanting to continue to help the people of Marion, Garnes came out of retirement in 2003 to work as a job coach for Marion Goodwill Industries for another 10 years.
Like his father, Garnes II, left Marion after college to pursue a career. Following the passing of his mother and brother, Garnes II, also came home to Marion to live with his father.
“Moving back home and living with him allowed us to rediscover our relationship as father and son and as friends,” said Garnes II. “He was a person of great love and respect in this community. It was inspiring.”
Garnes Sr. was active with the Mt. Vernon Ave. Church of Christ and served on dozens of community boards, including Marion Children’s Services Board, Boys and Girls Club of Marion County, Marion Palace Theatre, Marion General Hospital, and the Black Heritage Council. He was a well-known voice for the minority community and for youth.
He served two terms on the Crawford-Marion Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services, and on the Ohio American Association for Retired Persons and the Midwest Council for Social Research on Aging board of directors. He founded Grant Middle School’s Achiever’s Club, served on Marion City Council, and, for his efforts, was honored with the 2006 Pearl R. Roberts Award for outstanding community service by a senior citizen..
“There are very few people who give back in the way John Garnes did,” said Jody Demo-Hodgins, former executive director of ADAMH. “He certainly gave of his time; he gave of his expertise in bringing people together. He was always willing to sit down with you and find a different way to do what needed to be done. He was the most genuine person, and did all of this because he so genuinely cared about people and kids and this community.”
“My father served on all of these boards, not to benefit himself, but because he truly believed in all of these causes,” said Garnes II. “He served on so many, we used to tease him to see if even knew where he was going some nights.”
Garnes Sr. passed in 2014 at the age of 79. He is fondly remembered by many as a role model of integrity and patience.