Well-liked skydiver racked up 1,700 jumps
The number of times Ralph Garrison jumped out of an airplane adds up to every day for more than four-and-a-half years.
“He loved the sport of skydiving. He loved what people thought of it, how kids reacted. He jumped at July Fourth celebrations. He jumped as Santa Claus in the winter,” Bill Garrison of Ben Avon said of his father, who made 1,700 jumps.
Ralph E. Garrison Jr. of Bloomfield died from pancreatic cancer on Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, in the Neville Island home of his oldest daughter. He was 80.
He last parachuted from an airplane in June.
“He was never going to stop until he had to,” his son said.
Mr. Garrison, who grew up in Troy Hill, was the son of a World War I veteran and barnstormer. Garrison's father, also named Ralph, and his mother, Mary, took their wedding vows in an airplane and — instead of walking down the aisle — jumped out of the plane.
A paratrooper in the Army's 187th Airborne Division during the Korean War, Mr. Garrison married after the war and worked for decades as a salesman for Hiram Walker, manufacturer of Canadian Club whisky. He also drove for ACCESS, a transportation provider for seniors and the disabled.
Ralph and Patricia Garrison, who died in 1995, became parents to six children.
“When my father jumped, my mother would close her eyes until someone told her the parachute had opened. We always lived with the thought that tragedy could strike,” Bill Garrison said.
It almost did on St. Patrick's Day 1970, when Mr. Garrison landed on Mt. Washington's steep hillside instead of at Point State Park. He had to be rescued.
For decades, Ralph Garrison was a member of the Pittsburgh Skydiving Team, which staged jumps at events such as the Three Rivers Regatta and festivals and fairs in the area. He jumped at the Canonsburg July Fourth celebrations for 39 years.
“It was always cool to have a dad who skydived. Other kids admired that,” said his other son, Gary Garrison of Lower Burrell.
In 2003 in Lake Wales, Fla., Mr. Garrison was one of 11 men older than 70 who jumped in formation — a record for the number of people that age.
“He was a very fun-loving guy who cared a lot about his family. He had many friends. Skydiving builds a strong camaraderie,” said skydiver Karl Poruben of Reserve, a longtime friend.
In addition to his two sons, Mr. Garrison is survived by a sister, Bonnie Wisniowski of Perrysville, daughters Julie Withrow of Neville Island, Janet Getto of Peters, Mary Cullen of Friendship and Bonnie LoPiccolo of Cranberry; 16 grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Maria Goretti Parish, Liberty Campus, Bloomfield.
Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.