I first met Coach Harvill in mid-1980’s. Having not grown up in Montgomery County, I simply knew that he was the football coach at Gaithersburg High School, and, more importantly, in my world, the husband of the wonderful Betty Harvill. Betty and I were working on the Upper Montgomery County YMCA Partner With Youth Campaign during this time period.
Betty was well-known in the business community as a community activist, and a person dedicated to a number of area charities. At a fundraising event, Coach Harvill arrived with Betty. When he walked into the room, people rushed over to greet him and shake his hand. I heard stories from numerous business leaders at that meeting about how they had played football for Coach Harvill over the prior decades, or had other associations with the Coach. Everyone spoke of him with very revered tones, and the word “icon” was used numerous times. He was a tall, lanky man in his 50’s, but one could clearly see that he had been, and probably still was extremely athletic.
When Betty first introduced me to Coach Harvill, I received a hardy handshake, pat on the back, and thanks for working on the fundraiser with Betty. Coach was very folksy in his way, and, when I told him it was an honor to meet him, he simply responded, “Don’t believe all the wonderful things you have heard about me. Most aren’t true, but believe all the good things you’ve heard about Betty, because they’re all true.”
He then went on to ask me about my family, whether I had played football in high school, and, when he found out that I was an avid sports fan, asked me all about my favorite teams. It was the start of a thirty year relationship where I became one of his students.
For three decades we would talk sports, community and family. I called him “Coach” even though I never had the honor of playing for him, but felt it was the right title since he would always give me some advice in each discussion.
I remember one of the first things he ever said to me was, “When you have knocked down your opponent, always help him up. However, that help should not come until the game is over.” He talked about his players as if they were his extended family, and talked about his family as if they were the only thing that mattered.
My fondest memory of Coach Harvill came in the early 1990’s while my wife was battling leukemia. We ran into Coach and his wife at a Gaithersburg restaurant, and he gave us each a warm embrace and said he was praying and rooting for Karen’s recovery. He then looked at me and said, “Steve, you know that Vince Lombardi saying about winning not being everything, because it’s the only thing?” I responded to him that I did. He then looked at me and said, “I never believed that to be true in football, but in your family’s situation, it couldn’t be more true.”
Coach, you will be missed by an entire community.
Steven T. Blomberg