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'If we could just be a little more like him': Bob McGrath remembered for TeleMiracle legacy


Bob McGrath, the actor, musician and children's author known for his portrayal of one of the first regular characters on "Sesame Street" died at the age of 90 on Sunday.

However, in Saskatchewan, people know him as the longtime host and entertainer on TeleMiracle.

"No one had a way with people the way that Bob McGrath had," Beverley Mahood, who spent decades alongside McGrath, said of his legacy.

More than anything, Mahood remembers McGrath as a genuine and kind person who could make anyone feel comfortable.

McGrath only missed one TeleMiracle between 1977 and 2015 when he retired from the annual telethon.

Mahood first got involved with the fundraiser in 1987, when the man who helped Mahood learn her alphabet would suddenly become a friend and mentor.

"I learned everything I know. They say to do that, you know, learn from the best. I definitely learned from the best of how to have human compassion and how to have human kindness," she said.

"You felt like you knew him because he treated you that way."

Over the years, people in Saskatchewan came to know McGrath more for his TeleMiracle appearances than his appearances on Sesame Street. The lure of helping people and neighbors in need brought McGrath back every year.

"He's like an uncle that you've known all your life. He's such a kind, gentle and, and generous guy," Brad Johner said.

Johner, a fellow musician and Telemiracle regular, first met McGrath when he was a teenager performing on stage. Years later, Johner would go on to be close friends with McGrath after more than 20 shows together.

Johner said singing "Wild Mountain Time" with McGrath for the very first time was the highlight of his career.

McGrath received a Saskatchewan Distinguished Service Award in 2013. The day after he retired in 2015, Saskatoon mayor Don Atchison declared March 8 as Bob McGrath Day.

Always humble and trying to refuse the attention, McGrath would have rather put the spotlight on the people of Saskatchewan.

"Sometimes when you meet an idol of yours, they're not who you thought they were. Well, Bob was exactly who you who you thought he was," Johner said.

Johner said it was amusing to watch all the celebrities and rock stars appearing on TeleMiracle over the years. It didn't matter who they were or how big their fame was. Everyone instantly reverted to a toddler when they met McGrath.

"They were googly eyed over Bob McGrath," Johner said. "Bob is singing, 'my face, my face' and they're clapping along like a five-year-old kid. I mean, that's a special moment," Johner said.

Johner was pleased to find out McGrath died with his family by his side after coming to learn how much they meant to McGrath.

A man who grew up in Illinois, who spent most of his career in New York City with no other connection to Saskatchewan has left a hole in the province.

While it feels like something is now missing without McGrath, Johner said his demeanor, attitude and legacy is something we can all benefit from.

"If we could just be a little bit more like him, the world would be a way better place.” 

Bob McGrath at his final appearance during the 39th running of TeleMiracle. (CTV News) Top Stories

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