In Memory

Graham Harwood

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10/26/14 12:32 PM #1    

Dave Loersch

First soccer style place kicker I ever saw.

11/12/14 10:00 AM #2    

Marty Palmer

Knew Graham in gym class.  It blew me away when I saw him kick a football through the uprights soccer style!  He was an athelte and played soccer before coming to the USA.  He was a really nice guy.......

06/11/15 02:06 PM #3    

Robert Ambrite


     One of the most revered records in all the world of sports is referred to as “The Perfect Season.” The year was 1972 when the National Football League’s Miami Dolphins won seventeen games and tied/lost zero. To this day, “The Perfect Season” has never been replicated by any other NFL team. Under the leadership of former Detroit Lion Coach, Don Shula, former Detroit Lions Quarterback, Earl Morral, and former Detroit Lions placekicker, Garo Yepremian, the Dolphins, simply stated, were perfect. Yepremian was born in Cyprus to parents of Armenian descent and was a major contributor to the Dolphin’s perfection.  As a three-year-old in Cyprus, Yepremian took up the sport of soccer. His skill ultimately earned him a full scholarship to the University of Indiana and he dreamed of eventually playing professional soccer in the United States. The dream was shattered when it was discovered he had previously played professional soccer in London, and, thus, was not eligible to play in the U.S. In need of a job, Yepremian tried out for the Detroit Lions and, in 1966, was immediately put under contract. Yepremian was one of the first men in the NFL to introduce soccer-style side-kicking to professional American football.

     Just a few years earlier, the Denby Tars championship football team, under the leadership of Coach Ed Rutherford, introduced this same soccer-style kicking to the state of Michigan. The style was premiered by a handsome, young, redheaded athlete named Graham Harwood, who never missed an extra point, seldom missed a field goal and could kickoff as well as Lou “The Toe” Groza. Graham was from the United Kingdom and, instantly upon his arrival to Denby, became a star on the football field, with the teachers, with his fellow students and, especially, the girls. At that time, I was seeing a girl I had met while an usher at the Civic Theater, Kitty Kelly. Graham began dating Kitty’s good friend, Elaine McArther. We all spent time together at Tony’s Broasted Chicken, Duncan Burgers and in Kitty’s kitchen eating stuffed grape leaves and Syrian bread.

     On a crisp autumn football Friday, Denby was playing Pershing. Kitty, Elaine and I jumped into my stodgy 1961 green Ford with the rusty muffler and were off to watch Graham work his magic against a talented Pershing team. Denby dominated and, by the third quarter, Elaine and I wanted to leave. Kitty wanted to stay, so we said we would come back to pick her up. We didn’t. While Kitty was walking home alone, there was an incident with some visiting Pershing students near Morang Avenue which caused Kitty to become quite afraid. She easily could have been injured. Kitty’s father called my parents (rightfully so) to complain about my lack of courtesy, friendship and responsibility. I felt terrible. When I returned to school that Monday, Graham requested that I meet him in the stairwell, alone. “Well, this is it,” I thought. “I’m in for a good old fashion British beating.” As I stood in the stairwell waiting for Graham, I thought of Houdini, the magician who would tighten his stomach muscles and allow people to punch him in the gut as hard as they could. I thought, “Hell, I’m in good shape. I’ll tighten my stomach. Graham will take one solid punch and it will be over. Just please, not the face. Whatever Graham decides, not my face.” I cowered in the corner of the stairwell, stomach tight, waiting for my fate. Graham calmly approached and, like a gentlemanly British schoolmaster, asked me if I thought what I had done to Kitty, Elaine and him was fair. I felt terrible, small, selfish and like a five-year-old kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. But at the same time, I realized I was in the presence of a very special guy, a true gentleman, a teacher, a man with compassion and a soul.     

          I learned years later that Graham’s life took some turns that led him down an unfortunate path. This saddened me because Graham should have been the one leading an NFL team to a “The Perfect Season.” To paraphrase Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront, Graham “coulda been a contender.” So, this October when I return to Detroit and look up into the starlit sky over Denby, I’ll see some of that stardust glow as memories of Graham Harwood, our star placekicker.


06/12/15 01:47 PM #4    

Linda Champine (DiLaura)

hello Robert,

This is in response to your latest ... the memorial to Graham Harwood. I have read all your pieces on the Denby website and, just in case no one else has said so before, you are quite a writer and I am sure that there is a novel or two inside you waiting to be written (if you haven't done that already). The piece on Graham's memorial is quite interesting on several levels, but not least of which is the fact that you skipped out on Kitty Kelly with a certain Elaine McArthur who is my cousin. I remember Graham well, since he was so unique, especially given that he was a redhead (as were 4 of my sisters) and redheads had to really fight for their place in the social milieux of that time. But getting back to Elaine .... yikes!  I will show her this piece and maybe she will want to commiserate with you on that memory. Yes, sounds like Graham was quite a fellow.


best ever, Linda DiLaura (nee Champine)

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