This is a sad week for me.
Harold “Mac” W. McGilton, Sr., 74, of Fremont Ohio, died Tuesday, April 21, 2009 at Countryside Continuing Care Center surrounded by his family.
He was survived by his wife, Betty McGilton, Fremont, OH; children, Michael McGilton, Steve McGilton, Harold “Mac” (Maria) McGilton, Jr., Lisa (Randy) Hammer, Linda McGilton all of Fremont, OH; fourteen grandchildren; and twelve great grandchildren.
I first met Harold McGilton in the early 1970’s. I think I was about 11 or 12 years old at the time. It was a chance meeting and though it was a long time ago…I remember it like yesterday.
Harold McGilton did not know my name, nor did we ever communicate at any time over the past 35 plus years since that first night I met him. However, Harold “Mac Attack” McGilton had a tremendous influence on me during those early years. He just never knew it.
Who was Harold “Mac” McGilton?
Harold was a Welder and Steeplejack by trade…but more importantly he was a race car driver. Not just any race car driver…but my race car driver. I watched in awe as he battled the corners of Fremont Speedway with the likes of Al Franks, Jim Linder and others.
He began his racing career in 1956. Throughout his racing career, Harold won hundreds of features and set numerous track records. He was a two time Track Champion at Fremont Speedway. In 1975 he won the first Speed Week Championship and in 1976 was Co-Champion with Billy Cassella. He traveled to many surrounding states winning numerous titles and events. After retiring in the late 70’s Harold returned to Sprint Car racing, competing and winning at age sixty-five. One of his great accomplishments was leading and finishing third at the Master’s Classic in 1999 in Knoxville, Iowa.
As a young boy, when I rode my bicycle, I imagined that I was Harold making the heroic and dangerous pass on that final turn to win the race. His daughter, Lisa Hammer recently said, “He was a bridesmaid hundreds of times,” she continued. “It took him seven years to get his first feature win.” However, when I played with my “Matchbox” cars…I had a special car that was “Harold’s” car. It NEVER lost a race.
I am sure there were times when in my mind…I was more Harold McGilton than the real deal. He was larger than life and I idolized him.
Little did Harold McGilton know that on that hot July evening, at the Fremont Speedway, that when he shook my hand he would have had such an influence on a young boy from Oak Harbor, Ohio.
Sadly, as I grew up, I moved on to other interests and other sports. Harold retired from racing.
I often wondered what he was up to and I always wished I could have made the connection with him again and tell him what a positive influence he had been to me. I wanted to tell him thank you for giving a young boy a hero to follow.
But as fate would have it…it never happened.
I came home from work this week and opened the newspaper and read the obituaries…and there it was… Harold had passed away.
In my life, I have traveled around the world. I have met a number a professional athletes, politicians and famous people over the years. I have even had the honor of meeting two Presidents and shaking their hands. All of these people would be considered heroes for many people, but not for me.
I did not have to travel all around the world to find a hero…
He found me at a little dirt track in Fremont, Ohio.
Thank you, Harold.
Blessings to his family and may God give you peace and comfort in this difficult time.