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Darin McGahey: Coach remembered for selflessness

Photo by Jason A. Smith
Kay Veasley (left) was congratulated by Henry County Sheriff Keith McBrayer and others Friday, upon her retirement. Veasley was a clerk in Henry County Magistrate Court, where she previously served as a judge.

Photo by Jason A. Smith Kay Veasley (left) was congratulated by Henry County Sheriff Keith McBrayer and others Friday, upon her retirement. Veasley was a clerk in Henry County Magistrate Court, where she previously served as a judge.

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Darin McGahey gave up his life, recently, trying to save his 11-year-old son, Noah, and other members of a local youth-league baseball team. They were struggling against the intense ocean currents on Florida's Gulf Coast.

Those closest to him were not surprised by the deed. "He's just one of those people, he'd go and help people for no reason," said a tearful Ann McGahey Friday, describing her late husband.

When the drowning incident occurred on July 7, the 42-year-old assistant coach, from McDonough, and members of the Locust Grove Razborbacks team, were swimming at Navarre Beach, Fla. The team had just lost a game in the USSSA Baseball World Series, according to McGahey's 38-year-old brother, Jeff McGahey.

"He gave his life for other kids," the younger brother said. "If he had to do it over again, he would do the exact same thing; there isn't a doubt in my mind," he said.

"We weren't there probably 30 minutes, and he went out in the ocean to play football with the kids," said Ann McGahey. "The current started carrying them away. He was going over, trying to get the kids back in. Other dads started jumping in the water," she continued.

"He was not a strong swimmer," but she said, "he's loving and caring."

Darin McGahey's wife of 12 years graduated alongside her husband at Stockbridge High School in 1986. She was a softball player, and he was a pitcher on the school's baseball team. "He loved to golf and play baseball," his widow said.

In his professional life, Darin McGahey was a licensed electrician for the Henry County School System, and a member of the Atlanta-based International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union. He had worked with the school system since 2005, according to Marion Hadden, the school system's maintenance supervisor.

"He was a real good electrician," said Michael Cox, the electrical foreman for the school system's maintenance department. "He was a real easy-going kind of person," Cox continued. "He's a pleasure being around. You never saw him get upset, he didn't let things bother him."

Cox and Darin McGahey had baseball ties as well. Cox first met Darin McGahey in the late 1970s, when he coached his younger brother, Jeff, in youth-league baseball. He recalled Darin McGahey was a pitcher in a more advanced baseball division.

"I kind of wanted to be like him," said Jeff McGahey. "He was always better than me. I had to work for it." Jeff McGahey said his brother had devoted much of his life to coaching youngstersl, since his playing years in high school.

Darin McGahey's love for baseball was clearly evident in his own son's reverence for the game. "They [he and Noah] bonded through baseball," said Ann McGahey. "My son started playing baseball when he was four. They played catch a lot. They always talked about him [Noah] going to play college ball in Alabama."

She said her son, a fifth-grader at Ola Middle School in McDonough, has taken his father's death with great difficulty, even choosing not to participate in fall sports as he and his father had planned.

"He's trying to keep himself busy," the mother said. "A lot of our friends are taking time to be with him. But I think he'll get back out there eventually."

Ann McGahey believes the game of baseball, at least, is in her son's genes. His grandfather, Allen McGahey, was said to have been a highly touted baseball player decades ago.

"Rumor has it that the minor leagues, and the major leagues, wanted him, but he didn't want to leave my mom and his family," interjected Jeff McGahey. The younger brother said his father, too, died when he and Darin McGahey were young.

"I was six months old, and Darin was four and a half years old," he said. "It's kind of like history replaying itself. I think Darin got his baseball talent from him [Allen]," he continued. "Darin didn't turn professional, though. I guess he realized that he liked coaching as much as he liked playing."

At Tuesday's funeral services for his brother, Jeff McGahey gave his final farewell. "My last words to him were that I would be there for his family, maybe not the way he would, but the best I can," he said. "If the world was more like him, it would be a much better place."

Darin McGahey, the son of Peggy Joyce Ponds McGahey, and the late Spencer Allen McGahey, is survived by Ann Hightower McGahey, of McDonough; children, Noah McGahey, Dustin Mills and Austin Mills; stepfather, Dewey Jaynes, of Stockbridge; brother, Jeff McGahey, of McDonough; nephew, Kyle McGahey; and in-laws, Alan and Elissa Johnson, of Stockbridge.