Willard Grogan was a rough and crusty biker from Marietta who rode across the country for years with the Outlaws Motorcycle Club. His days were filled with drugs, booze, guns and bad choices for most of his life.
“Nobody messed with Willard. He scared people. He slept with his gun, you know,” recalled Judy Ivey, who knew him for decades. “Willard and my late husband Marshall were cousins, and they grew up together, but Willard was always a bit of a renegade. He was rowdy and he drank an awful lot. He didn’t have much use for church.”
And yet, one of the cottages at the faith-based Calvary Children’s Home in Powder Springs now proudly bears his name on one of its cottages: “The Willard Grogan House.”
Founded in 1966, Calvary Children’s Home is a nurturing residence for children in the area who are orphaned or need to live apart from their families for a variety of reasons, according to Snyder Turner, a retired Baptist pastor who is the current executive director and son of the home’s late founder, Ben Snyder.
“The key phrase to remember is ‘most of his life’ when describing Willard Grogan,” said Turner.
Ivey said Grogan made many poor choices early in his life, but something happened when he was in his forties.
“He said he got tired of the rough life,” Ivey said. “I remember he became friends with a fellow who had a biker ministry, and that’s when he left the Outlaws. He stopped drinking. Willard joined the Bikers for Christ and rode with them for several years, but all that drinking took a toll on his life. He had a lot of health problems.”
Grogan never preached like this friend did, but Ivey said he quietly shared the Gospel with others. He died in 2013 from liver cancer and congestive heart failure.
Grogan’s family died many years before that and left him a sizable estate. Though he was briefly married decades ago, he never had children.
“He didn’t need a lot of money and didn’t use much of what he had. He was in and out of the hospital for years,” Turner said.
Toward the end of his life when he was unable to care for himself, Ivey said, he reached out for help.
“Marshall and I helped him pay bills, deal with doctors, hospitals and nursing homes,” she said.
Despite his inheritance, he had no will. After much prodding by the Iveys and his financial adviser, John Gray, Grogan established an estate plan.
“He wanted to do something to help children and leave a legacy to help improve their lives,” Ivey said. “Willard said he didn’t make much of a difference when he was alive, but he wanted to make a difference when he was gone.”
He considered donating to a mobile dental van, a camp for underprivileged children and other children’s homes.
“But his ultimate wish,” Turner said, “was to help the place that he and his Bikers for Christ buddies visited every Christmas with gifts for the children: the Calvary Children’s Home.”
Grogan established an endowment fund through the Cobb Community Foundation to manage the funds for Calvary, which Turner said ensured an on-going stream of payments to help continue their mission.
“It sounded like a thunderstorm when they rolled in, all those guys on their Harleys, riding the kids around. And the curious thing is, Willard was in that group of bikers that came to visit, but I never met him personally,” Turner said. “Because his story is so unique about the change that can come in your life with a relationship with Christ, we named one of our cottages for Mr. Grogan. He wanted change in his life in spite of his circumstances,” Turner said.
With the Willard Grogan Fund, Turner said Grogan will continue to change the lives of children for years to come, something that needs to be recognized.
“Hopefully our young people will see that name plaque and ask about it,” Turner said. “We’ll have the opportunity to say, ‘It doesn’t matter what your circumstances look like. They don’t have to be the way they have always been.’ If they’re headed down a wrong path, they can turn it around and do what Willard did. They can ‘do a Grogan.’ I think there’s a sermon in there somewhere.”