John Gracey To Be Inducted Into All-Sports Hall Of Fame
A natural athlete throughout all stages of his life, the late John Gracey always aspired to perform at the highest level possible whether it was pole vaulting as a senior citizen, earning a gold medal as a member of the U.S. Crossbow Team or competing in the Boston Marathon.
When Fulton County residents and sports enthusiasts gather on April 4 it will be to pay homage to Gracey’s achievements as well as those of five other stellar area athletes. Along with Gracey, Major Leaguer the late Clyde Barnhart; the late Rosalie (Hixson) Wiherin, Paralympics wheelchair medalist; former Minor League baseball player Carl Paylor; stock car race driver Tom Peck; and track star Bobby Snyder II will be the first members inducted into the Fulton County All-Sports Hall of Fame.
The event, which will include a banquet as well as an induction ceremony, will get under way at the Alumni and Friends building on East Maple Street in Mc- Connellsburg at 6 p.m.
Even though Gracey passed away at the age of 80 on June 13, 2012, his family is slated to be on hand to accept this prestigious award. Gracey is survived by siblings as well as his loving wife of 51 years, Mary, son Steve Gracey of Hustontown and daughter Joni Park of Fort Littleton.
Gracey was well-known throughout all of Fulton County even though he lived his entire life in the small village of New Grenada. As a teen, Gracey got his first taste and love of sports. He played soccer for Hustontown High School and was a member of the school’s championship track and field and baseball teams.
Gracey continued to play baseball locally until he was in his mid- 30s, but his newfound love of running and competing in small bore rifle competitions quickly took over and eventually branched into other passions, including from biking, swimming, cross-country skiing, canoeing and crossbow.
While in his 50s, Gracey qualified and competed in the Iron Man World Championship held in Hawaii as well as the New York Empire State Games. He was deemed the best skier over the age of 40 in the 12 Allegheny Race Series.
Gracey was also renowned for his prowess with the crossbow. He was a record setter and would compete with with U.S. team on five occasions. Competitions took him across Europe and Asia and his future participation in compound bow events earned him a championship title at the 1995 National Senior Olympics.
He easily made his mark in the PA Senior Games. One year he was touted as having earned 14 medals. Never content, he turned his attention to mastering the pole vault at the age of 70.
A shoulder injury put a stop to his athletic career in 2005, but four years later a diagnosis of pulmonary fibrosis knocked Gracey out of commission permanently.
While he was undoubtedly a local legend and athlete, many had the opportunity to know and love Gracey for his generous spirit and heart. He and his shelter dog, Chipper, became the stuff of legends through two small books penned by Gracey. The duo were inseparable prior to John’s passing, travelling to long-term-care units and schools, meeting with area residents and spreading cheer.
Individuals wishing to attend the first Fulton County All-Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony honoring Gracey and other local athletes can purchase tickets through March 24. Tickets are $20 and will be sold at all three county high school offices as well as at the Robert Snyder Agency and the McConnellsburg main branches of F&M Trust and Susquehanna Bank.