Former GP chemist remembered as pillar of the community
When Edward W. Garris died Tuesday following an extended illness, Palatka lost a man who made his presence known in the area for decades through his charitable works and impact on local youth.
While the community mourns the passing of Garris, 88, who was known for giving back to the community, residents also remember the impact he made on the area since moving to Palatka in 1953.
“He really was well-liked. To him, nobody was a stranger and everyone was a friend,” said his son, Tom Garris. “He was very kind-hearted, and everybody looked up to him.”
Edward Garris, an Air Force veteran who received the rank of lieutenant colonel, moved to Palatka to work at Hudson Pulp and Paper. When Georgia-Pacific took over the operation, Garris worked at the Palatka mill for 43 years and became its chief chemist.
Tom Garris said his father used his vast knowledge of chemicals and University of Florida education outside of the paper mill. Edward Garris was a state certified water analyst, he said, and he used his role to help others.
“He would analyze people’s water for them throughout the county. This was a rural county and they didn’t have city water. And he made sure their water was drinkable,” Tom Garris said. “A lot of times, if people didn’t have the money, he would do it for free.”
Two areas Edward Garris poured his energy and passion into the most were his church home, All Saints’ Anglican Church in Palatka, and coaching youth sports. Through these endeavors, he touched countless lives with his compassion and guidance.
In 1978, Edward Garris was one of 13 founding members of All Saints’ Anglican Church, the Rev. Franklin Bartlett said.
Bartlett described Edward Garris as a cornerstone of the church since its inception.
“When we had a new person come to the church, he was the first one talking to them. He would take them around and give them tours of the church,” Bartlett said. “He really went out of his way to greet new people coming into the church. He just had that kind of personality.”
When his father was not at church, Tom Garris said, he could often be found leading championship-winning youth baseball and basketball teams in Palatka. He coached George DeLoach, who recalls the lessons he was taught under his coach’s tutelage.
“He really taught me teamwork, and he taught me how to have a great attitude,” DeLoach said. “We were just so much more organized than any other team. He really put his heart and soul into it.”
Edward Garris was not a coach who would display favoritism among players or yell when mistakes were made, Tom Garris said. Instead, he made a point to teach all of his players the fundamentals of the game in a positive and supporting way.
“If they couldn’t hit the ball or shoot the basket, he would show them how to do it and inspire them to continue to learn how to do it,” he said. “I think it was the satisfaction that he helped someone to really point them in the right direction and instill in them to always do your best and do your hardest.”
While the community and Edward Garris’ family mourn the loss of the generous and endeared man, Tom Garris said he is honored so many people cared about his father.
“We are truly going to miss him, but at the same time I think a lot of people in the community are going to miss him also,” he said.