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'Always there for us'

Harsh remembered as policeman, public official, teracher, Army veteran and Dad

Harsh remembered as policeman, public official, teracher, Army veteran and Dad

August 14, 2005|By MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail will run "A Life Remembered." The story will take a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Harry Luther Harsh, who died Aug. 5 at the age of 66. His obituary appeared in the Aug. 8 edition of The Daily Mail and the Aug. 9 edition of The Morning Herald.

marlob@herald-mail.com

During more than 35 years of marriage, Harry and Angie Harsh raised their own children and fostered many others, while opening their home to countless unwanted dogs and cats.

Their relationship was close and warm, but always energetic. Angie said that closeness will make life without Harry just that much more difficult.

"Harry's not in my heart ... he is my heart," Angie said on the afternoon she and her family laid him to rest.

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Ex-police officer, ex-judge of the Orphans Court of Washington County and ex-educator, Harry Harsh was 66 when he died Aug. 5 at Washington County Hospital.

Angie said she met Harry in 1968 when he was a Hagers-town City Police detective and she was underage, drinking at The Vogue Room.

"He came in one day," she said. "He had that trench coat on and I thought he was going to bust me, but he didn't."

Later, they had coffee together and on New Year's Eve 1969, they were married.

"We chose that day because I figured he'd never forget our wedding anniversary," Angie said.

After Harry retired from the police force in 1973, he became a private investigator for a while so he could use the skills he had learned from his law enforcement career.

Later, he became a home instructor for Washington County Public Schools. In addition to raising four children of their own, he and Angie fostered many children in their home over the years.

Together, Angie and Harry had two sons, Douglas and Joseph; two daughters, Donna and Amanda; and six grandchildren.

"He was a great dad," said Joseph, recalling how his father came to practices as well as his games when he played sports. "Dad was always there for us."

Donna Maria Walker, who lives in Kentucky, said her father's marvelous sense of humor is one of the qualities she will always carry with her. She won't soon forget Harry's unique take on how to let a teenage girl know who's boss.

"One time, I was mad about something and I slammed my bedroom door so hard, it knocked the clothes rod off the closet wall," Donna said. She heard her father's footsteps coming down the hall and then she became aware that he was taking the door of her room off the hinges.

"Dad was so big ... he put that door under his arm and walked back up the hall," Donna said.

It was several days before Donna earned the right to have her door back - a lesson well learned for a teenage girl whose outburst seriously had affected her cherished privacy.

At Harry's Mass of Christian burial Tuesday at St. Mary's Catholic Church, Donna said she was overwhelmed by the memory of walking down the aisle with her father just 10 months earlier on her wedding day in the very same church.

"With tears in his eyes, Dad told me he wasn't giving me away, I was just on loan," Donna said of the day she exchanged marriage vows with Michael Walker.

At the graveside service Wednesday, Donna's husband folded the American flag that had been on Harry's grave and handed it to Angie.

Harry's influence spread far beyond his family, as many of the children he instructed at home have kept in contact through the years.

"I remember one little boy that no one thought could ever learn, but he learned from Harry," Angie said. That youngster could identify people by scent, Angie said, and Harry discovered he could reach the boy when he wore his favorite cologne, Stetson.

In addition to home instruction, Harry also served two terms as a judge of the Orphans Court of Washington County.

"Harry won his first term in 1994 by just a few votes," said John M. Shriver, current Orphans Court judge, who served two terms with Harry. "After that, I always called him 'Landslide Harry.'"

Shriver said he, former Judge Linda Fox and Harsh were a good team from 1994 until 2002.

"There were some tough cases during those eight years," Shriver said. "I was honored to have worked with Harry - he was a very thoughtful judge and a good human being."

Harry did not run for re-election in November 2002. The judges of the Washington County Orphans Court meet two days a week to probate wills, set attorney fees, settle disputes over estates and appoint administrators and guardians.

Harry wasn't what Angie would describe as a man who spent a lot of time in church.

"He had a firm belief in God and he lived a godly life," she said.

And, she added, his love of country was unshakable. An Army veteran, Harry was active in the Funkstown American Legion and a host of veterans activities.

A final act in his well-lived life took the form of memorial donations to the Dixon-Troxell American Legion Post 211 for a benefit fund to be established in his memory to benefit foster children.

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