Sometimes it takes callers from Donatos Pizza at Canal Winchester a moment to figure out why the person on the other end of the line seems so familiar.
More than likely, those who recognize Paul Harman’s voice as he takes their order have “met” him for the first time during his 22-year career as a public announcer for several track and field teams in the city. Winchester High School Channel.
Harman sometimes does well enough to earn a tip, though calls are usually the extent of its interaction with customers.
“I’ve heard of a waiter or someone like that being tipped, but not someone you don’t even see,” Harman’s mother, Sharon, said. “But people will come and say, ‘I want to tip the announcer, Paul.'”
Such is the legacy left by Harman, a 2003 Canal Winchester graduate who began announcing in eighth grade and fully resigned earlier this school year.
Harman was born with spina bifida, which left him paralyzed from the waist down. But the lifelong sports fan has used his voice and outgoing attitude to take his fandom of Indian teams to the next level and stay involved in the community.
“When he’s there, you can’t help but be excited about what he’s doing at that time or how it relates to our student-athletes,” said athletic director Pat Durbin. “You can’t help but feed off of her energy and her passion for this community and our athletics, and whatever it is – volleyball, soccer, women’s basketball, baseball (or) softball, no matter.”
Volunteers took Paul and his wheelchair to and from the press box before and after football games and other outdoor events.
Now 37, Harman showed no signs of slowing down before the onset of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in March 2020. He downsized to protect his health and slowly returned to events this school year, assisting to the first four football games as well as a handful of other events before Sharon – who took Paul to the events he was working on and took tickets to many of them herself from 1994 to 2020 – be hospitalized for much of November due to various ailments.
“It was a scary time,” Paul said. “Mom was more afraid for me than for her.”
“Paul has only asked for one thing in this life and that is to go to Canal Winchester games home and away, and I can’t do that anymore,” said Sharon, who has several blood clots in the legs and moves. using a walker. “I felt bad (that Paul quit) and he said, ‘It’s not your fault, mum.’ He is a young man who handles things very well.
Not wanting his efforts to go unrewarded, Durbin arranged for Paul to be honored. The catch is that Harman rarely knew in advance which games he could attend, but the boys’ home basketball game on Feb. 1 against Westerville North ended up working out.
Harman was recognized on center court before the varsity contest, receiving signed football, basketball, and volleyball from those teams along with a standing ovation.
“I knew something was going to happen. I didn’t know what,” Harman said. “It was really cool. It was a great honour. I don’t do it for those honours, but it’s nice to be appreciated. If you’re doing this for the rewards, you’re doing it for the wrong reason. But the fact that they took this time was very, very touching.
The girls’ basketball team paid a similar tribute to him on February 15 ahead of their Division I tournament first-round match against Lancaster, hitting him one-by-one before the whistle.
“All the girls have a special place for him in their hearts,” said Kate Ratliff, a junior striker. “What I remember the most is how excited he was when we were taking a shot, how his voice could get everyone excited. He has so much energy and he’s such a sweet person.
Harman was inducted into the Canal Winchester Athletics Hall of Fame in 2008, receiving the merit award for his years of service. Sharon was similarly inducted in 2015.
Harman’s father, Ken, a Canal Winchester graduate in 1962, is in the Hall of Fame for his achievements in athletics.
Paul did not rule out returning to the announcement, but said it was unlikely. For now, he tracks scores via text and social media and attends games whenever his schedule allows.
“There are people behind the scenes who have as much, if not more, impact on athletics and don’t have to be in the limelight. It’s Sharon and Paul for sure,” said said Durbin “They’re just really good human beings, good people, caring people who understand that life is what you give, not necessarily what you get.”