Quyon, Quebec is a fairly small town. Yet, at least two of their folk have settled into our neck of the woods – Bill Kennedy, who was featured not too long ago in this column, and Helen Harmon, who’ll you read about in today’s column. Helen never knew Bill in her Quyon days but her brother (who was also named Bill) did. In fact, when Bill (Helen’s brother) passed away a couple of years ago, the other Bill made a special point of dropping in on the Harmon’s to pass on his sympathies.
Helen was born as Helen O’Reilly, the last of seven children. She finished her Grade 12 and then topped that off by going to College to train for an intended career in office work. Upon graduation, she went to work for Metropolitan Life in Ottawa, about 35 miles from home.
Her sister Eileen had blazed a trail into our area – Deloraine. About a year and a half after working in Ottawa, Helen visited her sister…and liked this area so much that she wanted to live here. Unfortunately, jobs were scarce, so she settled in Winnipeg, working as a stenographer for a legal firm. However, she kept an eye on Deloraine and eventually found a job working for an optometrist. That was a brief stepping stone to yet another job – a position at a GM dealership in Melita (Cobb Motors) opened up and on October 13, 1959, in the midst of a wicked blizzard similar to the one we had this past October 12, she moved to Melita. She worked at Cobb Motors for twenty years – ten full-time and ten part-time. In those part-time years, she started up an H & R Tax franchise and became the ‘tax expert’ for many around here. After twenty years, she sold H & R and began settling into retirement.
Helen’s Melita days introduced her to a local boy. Dick Harmon had lived around Melita all his life. Like Helen, he came from a large family, the eighth of nine children. Dick remembers making the three-mile trek to school on horseback and, on days when he was feeling energetic, by bike. Unlike Helen, he never completed his schooling. In Grade 11, as the final exams were approaching, he got sick and was unable to take them. A likely excuse? Definitely not! He had the measles…and the spots to prove it! Probably just as well, Dick reflects – he likely wouldn’t have passed them anyway!
For a few years, he worked on the family farm, but then went to work as a self-employed carpenter, building homes and barns and pole sheds (cow shelters) in Melita and Gainsborough. When he retired, he continued to ‘tinker away’ with smaller carpentry jobs, like refinishing cabinets.
Helen’s and Dick’s paths crossed numerous times. They saw each other while bowling and curling and when Dick did some carpentry work for Cobb Motors. The crossing of the paths became serious, though, when Dick needed a tax expert. If he had to divulge his income, he might as well go all in! So, on October 1, 1966, they married – and the relationship has been anything but taxing for over fifty-three years…and counting!
Dick’s interests extended beyond Helen and work. He played back catcher for Brown’s Ball Club, which was inducted into the Manitoba Softball Hall Of Fame in 2012. He enjoyed fishing – some of his best catches are on display in their suite. Perhaps his biggest catch (besides Helen) was a four-foot wahoo caught on a deep-sea excursion off the shores of Florida – you can see that on display in The Happy Chopstick! He loves the outdoors…and Helen shares that love. She enjoyed fishing, although she would have preferred to do the catching and leave the cleaning of the fish to Dick! Camping was also high on their list of favourite activities. Initially, camping meant sleeping in sleeping bags in the box of their truck, then advanced to an older Class A motor home…and then ultimately back to the box of the truck, this time in an attached fifth wheel! Other interests included snowmobiling (something Helen never got into), golf, and travel, seeing much of Canada and the States, as well as Spain and Guatemala.
Both have been quite involved in the Melita community. Helen served on Melita’s Centennial Committee in 1984 (“the best centennial that Melita has ever had!”) and she’s a life-time member of Melita’s Chamber of Commerce. Dick was a charter member of the Lion’s Club for about thirty years. As well, both of them have worked as volunteers for the local golf course.
These days, life is not quite as active for Dick and Helen. Helen enjoys her books and Dick enjoys his sports on TV – “Go Bombers Go!” Since this past May, they have been living at the Melita Lodge – it’s not quite the same as when they were living in their own home…but there are no steps…and much of the things they had to go out for are now brought to them!
And that’s Dick & Helen – a life together in perfect Harmon-y!