‘He touched the lives of so many in Madison Heights’

Colleagues remember City Councilman Bob Gettings

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published December 6, 2021

 Bob Gettings

Bob Gettings

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MADISON HEIGHTS — Bob Gettings, one of the top vote-getters in the most recent election for the Madison Heights City Council, has died, leaving his colleagues to reflect on the life of a man they described as a diligent public servant with a lifelong love of parks and recreation.

Gettings was age 69 when he died from complications of diabetes on Nov. 19. He is survived by his cousins Barbara Kastle, James (Becky) Mikel, Kenneth Mikel, and several others in Minnesota.

Flags were lowered to half mast at the city’s Holiday Tree Lighting Nov. 22. Roslyn Grafstein, the mayor of Madison Heights, paid tribute to Gettings in an email interview Nov. 28.

“Bob Gettings was also known as ‘Mr. Madison Heights’ and ‘Bobby G.’ His love of sports and recreation was infectious, and his devotion to the city, indisputable,” Grafstein said. “During his time on City Council, he was a strong proponent of our park improvements and our recreation programs. Over this last year, whenever a traditional event was canceled, he always reached out to me, and we would discuss in detail our COVID options. I think he was looking forward to our Tree Lighting this year more than anyone else on council, and his absence was felt by many.”

Gettings was a former city employee who began working for the Recreation Department in 1967, starting on the playground at Edison Elementary, which is also where he started kindergarten. From there he worked the following several dozen summers for the city, and 27 years full time.

Gettings earned an associate degree in recreational leadership and applied science from Macomb Community College, and a bachelor’s degree in recreation and park services from Wayne State University. He was promoted to recreation supervisor in 1979, and in 1984 he became the city’s recreation coordinator.

He also coached various sports, either as the head coach or as an assistant, in both the Madison and Lamphere school districts, including volleyball, basketball and track. He also coached Little League baseball.

“Bob Gettings brought a lot of history to the City Council table,” said Robert Corbett, a member of the Madison Heights City Council, in an email. “He was able to fill in a lot of blanks as to why things were the way they were, and why certain practices had developed the way they had regarding recreation and outdoor programming.

“Several generations of parents and their children remember Bob for his work on recreation, particularly,” Corbett said. “My own brother Pat remembers Bob as ‘Coach Bob,’ both for football and for baseball teams he worked with, covering many years back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.”

Added Grafstein: “Bob Gettings dedicated his personal and professional life to the pursuit of recreation. … He touched the lives of so many in Madison Heights, and he will be missed by those of us who were lucky enough to know him.”

Gettings also served on the Madison District Public Schools Board of Education for eight years prior to joining the City Council in 2009, where he served for four years before losing by just 10 votes, only to return for a term starting in 2015.

History then repeated itself when he ran for reelection in 2019, losing by another slim margin — three votes, to newcomer Kymm Clark — only to be appointed to fill a vacancy created on the council when Grafstein was appointed mayor.

In the most recent election, in November 2021, Gettings finished second among six candidates running for three open seats, securing himself a new four-year term.

Grafstein said Gettings’ performance in the election showed “the trust and respect our voters had in him to continue as a valued member of our council.”

With his passing, the first runner-up in that election — newcomer Quinn Wright — is appointed to serve the first two years of Gettings’ term. Then, in the election of November 2023, voters will choose who serves the remainder of the term.

“Our sincere and heartfelt condolences to the Gettings family. Bob loved Madison Heights, and served this city to the very end,” Wright said via email. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and the Madison Heights community as we mourn the passing of a great civil servant. I will do my best to honor his commitment to Madison Heights, through my efforts in the years to come.”

Mark Bliss, another member of the Madison Heights City Council, shared his appreciation.

“Bob Gettings was a kind, honest and caring man with a heart of gold, and a deep love of Madison Heights. I first met him through my parents’ Jaycee activities while he was working for the city, and later had the honor of serving with him on City Council,” Bliss said in an email.

“I’ll miss him. He was an almanac of all things sports, and his passion for recreation in our city was an inspiration to all of us on council,” Bliss said. “Broadly, he worked hard and made this city a better place to live and recreate, but he also touched the individual lives of hundreds of residents through his decades of service to this community. He will be missed, but never forgotten. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family during this difficult time.”

Sean Fleming, another member of the City Council, also spoke highly of Gettings.

“I am still mourning the loss of Bob Gettings, and give my condolences to the Gettings family and friends,” Fleming said via email. “He was an outstanding person in our city who gave his heart to us. His memories will live on inside us, and be told for years to come.”

Melissa Marsh, the city manager of Madison Heights, said the news of Gettings’ passing “immensely saddened us” at City Hall.

“He was not only a long-term resident and council member, but also a former city recreation employee,” Marsh said in an email. “He will be deeply missed.”

Corbett commended Gettings for his thoughtful approach to politics.   

“As a member of council, Bob was always open-minded and willing to consider a variety of views — qualities that are rare in this day and age,” Corbett said. “He really was a quality gentleman, and will be missed by all.”

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