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Jerry McFadden: A Life Well-Lived in Service to Others

October 8, 2018

By Cindy Elliott, Special to PGATOUR.COM

When Sir Winston Churchill coined the adage, “You make a living by what you get; but you make a life by what you give,” he could have been thinking about lifelong PGA TOUR volunteer Jerry McFadden.  The Copley, Ohio native, who passed away recently at the age of 87, devoted more than 60 years to volunteering for a multitude of professional golf championships throughout the Akron area, helping the tournaments raise millions of dollars for charity and inspiring other volunteers with his passion and dedication along the way.

A graduate of Kent State University who served in the U.S. Army during the last days of the Korean conflict, McFadden spent his professional career in human resources and strategic planning.  He was a professor at Malone University in Canton, OH, for many years as well as an adjunct professor at Kent State, later starting his own consulting firm.  His extraordinary legacy of giving back began with his membership in the Akron Jaycees, later becoming its president. Among the numerous charitable causes and endeavors supported by the Jaycees, the group began volunteering at the Rubber City Open Invitational in 1957.  The experience proved to be intoxicating for the friendly, affable McFadden, who loved the excitement and unexpected challenges that come with being part of a professional golf tournament behind the scenes.

Over the years, McFadden became a fixture at Firestone, serving in a variety of volunteer positions including public relations, transportation, ticketing, housing, concessions, scoring, marshal and grounds.  In 1959, he served as co-chair of the Rubber City Open Invitational, one of the first professional golf championships to rope the course from tee to green during competition. 

“I just love it,” McFadden said when asked last year about his passion for volunteering.  “We’re raising money for a bunch of outstanding charities in the community, and the friendships I’ve made and the indelible memories I have are priceless.”  One of his favorite memories, he recounted, was meeting Arnold Palmer, who was in the Coast Guard in Cleveland and played in the Rubber City Open.  “Boy, did he have a presence,” said McFadden.  “I don’t remember how he played, but he was a very enjoyable person to be around.”

Long after the Rubber City tournament was discontinued, McFadden continued to serve the community by supporting other golf tournaments in the area.  He volunteered for three PGA Championships played at Firestone Country Club (1960, 1966 and 1975, the last of which was won by Jack Nicklaus), the 14 American Golf Classics contested between 1961 and 1976, and all of the World Golf Championship events since then, including the 2018 World Golf Championships – Bridgestone Invitational.  From the tournament’s fledgling beginnings at Firestone, McFadden has been part of a volunteer team that now numbers more than 1,000, including two other volunteers who have served for more than 50 years, and his late wife of 54 years, Mary Ellen, who served on the Board of Governors for the American Golf Classic and volunteered at Firestone for more than 25 years.  Sadly, Mary Ellen passed away in 1999 after a long battle with breast cancer.

In addition to volunteering at championship golf events, McFadden remained active in other philanthropic activities in the Akron area.  Among his innumerable charitable activities, he volunteered at Akron City Hospital and United Way of Summit County; served as a patient visitor at Ridgewood Hospice; was an officer on the Board of the Greater Akron Music Association; was elected Junior Chamber International Senator; was a past president of the West Akron Kiwanis, Goodwill Industries of Greater Akron and the National Association of County Administrators; and was executive vice president and honorary life member of the Board of the Akron Symphony Orchestra.  He also served on numerous boards including the Northern Ohio Golf Charities, and was active in his church, retiring a few years ago after serving as Stephen Minister at Bath Church United Church of Christ.

McFadden touched countless lives, inspired everyone around him with his infectious spirit, and made an indelible impression on the Akron community.  His warmth, generosity and service will be sorely missed.

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