As family legend has it, following VJ day in 1945, John V. Ghindia hitchhiked his way all the way from Los Angeles to the University of Michigan.
Ghindia made the transition from being an Army Air Corp B-24 Bomdardier to the U of M football gridiron very nicely.
He was a key contributor as a quarterback and linebacker on two University of Michigan undefeated national championship football teams (1947-48), and three conference champion teams (1947-49), playing for legendary coaches Fritz Crisler and Bennie Oosterbaan.
Ghindia, who later settled in the Downriver area, where he became a community leader, a highly respected educator and a hall of fame coach, died peacefully with family members at his side March 16. He was 86.
“My Dad’s character, integrity, devotion to family, faith in God, patriotism, love, work ethic and servant leadership have provided me with the only role model I’ve needed,” said his son, John R. Ghindia, also a U of M football alum. “My Dad was a wonderful husband to my mother, his wife of 56 years, Katherine Sue, and the best father anyone could ever hope for.
“My sisters Mary Beth, Suzanne, Janet, brother George and I have been extremely blessed,” his son said. “Dad loved being from Downriver. Besides God, his family and friends, working with young kids as an educator/coach, there is nothing my father loves more than the University of Michigan.”
The 1947 team Ghindia played on is considered one of college football’s all-time greatest after beating USC 49-0 in the 1948 Rose Bowl. Nicknamed, “The Fox,” Ghindia enjoyed many reunions with his teammates over the years, especially those scheduled around Michigan’s Rose Bowl appearances. He pledged Phi Delta Theta and earned bachelor’s (’50) and master’s (’62) degrees from Michigan.
The longtime Trenton resident was a distinguished and active U of M alumnus. He was a fixture at football and basketball games for 62 years, as well as other contests featuring his beloved Wolverines. He has been described by thewolverine.com as one of the foundational bricks the Michigan Athletic program was built on. His staunch support of U of M, including “Letterwinners M Club” and “Presidential Society,” is well known and respected.
“John V. Ghindia serves as a great role model for all “M Men,” said former U of M quarterback and Detroit Tigers outfielder Rick Leach. “Everyone who knew him was honored to be in his company. He set a very high standard for the rest of us who consider ourselves to be ‘good’ M Men. When someone asks you what’s the definition of a ‘Michigan Man,’ think of John V. Ghindia.”
Looking back at Ghindia’s remarkable life, he was a genuine All-American story. He was born, Oct. 12, 1925, in Niles, Ohio, to Romanian immigrant steelworkers, John and Mary, and grew up in Ecorse.
A four-sport star at Ecorse High School in football, basketball, baseball and rowing. Ghindia led the basketball team as a 17-year-old player-coach to the Class B State Championship game. He was also a member of the eights crew in1943 that won both the National High School Championship and North American Rowing Eights Open Championship (after upsetting the NCAA champs).
Ghindia coached at Wyandotte St. Patrick (football, basketball, baseball) and Ecorse (hockey, tennis) High School and is a member of four halls of fame: Michigan High School Coaches Hall of Fame, Michigan Catholic High School Hall of Fame, Michigan Officials Hall of Fame and Michigan Tennis Hall of Fame, winning more than 600 games/matches and fielding numerous championship teams.
His primary profession was math teacher for 33 years at Lincoln Park and Ecorse high schools, as well as Henry Ford Community College, but his impact on young men and women extended far beyond the classroom and playing field. Ghindia helped dozens of students from the Downriver Detroit area secure academic and athletic scholarships to the University of Michigan and other colleges around the country.
Ghindia also served as the Ecorse recreation director for 16 years and was a pioneer in establishing youth hockey in the Downriver Detroit area in the early 1960s.
Early in his career, Ghindia had opportunities to move from high school to the college ranks. Many of his Michigan teammates, including former Michigan Coach Bump Elliott and Bob Hollway, who went on to coach in the NFL, and Tubby Raymond, head coach and athletic director at the University of Delaware, invited him to join them. John’s passion, however, was working with young kids as a high school educator and coach, and as head of Parks and Recreation.
Ghindia is a 50-year member of Kiwanis (past president) and a 40-year parishioner/usher at St. Joseph Catholic Church. He was also a fairly well-noted low-handicap golfer who shot two holes-in-one and also famously shot his age for 18 holes at 70 years old and again at 84.
Along with his wife and five children, Ghindia is survived by seven grandchildren. His family and friends celebrated his life at Girrbach-Krasun Funeral Home in (Southgate), Funeral Mass at St. Joseph, and a memorial luncheon.
A scholarship fund to benefit student-athletes has been established in Ghindia’s memory. Donations can be made to: John V. Ghindia Scholarship Fund, ? George W. Ghindia at 600 Anton Blvd., Suite 1100, Irvine, CA 92626. For further information call (925) 366-5000 or firstname.lastname@example.org