STEELEVILLE — Harold F. Harmsen, 88, died Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, in Cedarhurst Memory Care in Sparta.
Harold, who was known as “Hattie,” was born in Steeleville on the Fourth of July in 1931. The second child of George and Grace (Schilling) Harmsen, he grew up with his sister, Ruth, in a family of farmers and eventually inherited the family's farm just north of Steeleville. He attended school in Steeleville and graduated from Campbell Hill High School.
On Oct. 28, 1951, he married Norma Jean Bollmann at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Steeleville. They recently celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary.
Next to Jean and their family, the great love of Hattie's life was baseball. The game was a formative part of his childhood. He played in the St. Louis Cardinals farm system for teams in both the United States and Canada until an injury prematurely ended his playing career. He loved to recall stories from the days when Cardinals legend George Kissell was his manager. He took the lessons he learned from coaches like Kissell and shared them with the numerous young men he coached in the American Legion Baseball Program. He was an instrumental part of the Legion baseball program in Steeleville from the 1950s onward, managing local teams and serving as the 25th District Baseball Chairman. Today the Legion's baseball program honors his legacy with the annual Harold Harmsen Wooden Bat Classic Tournament, played each year on his birthday at the Harold “Hattie” Harmsen Field of Dreams.
Harold's long association with the Steeleville American Legion Post began with his service in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He enlisted in 1952 and served for three years as a mechanic and tank driver. His exemplary service to his country earned him a promotion to the rank of sergeant.
Harold was trained as a skilled carpenter. After returning from Korea, he worked with the public housing authorities in Randolph and Jackson Counties. For many years he was employed by the architecture firm of Garrison-Jones in Carbondale, overseeing many significant construction projects in the area. After his retirement, he started a small picture framing business, The Country Framer, and used his woodworking skills to help preserve the memories of many local families.
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He was a lifelong member of Peace Lutheran Church in Steeleville, serving in several leadership positions with the congregation.
For his numerous contributions to his community, Harold was honored as Steeleville's Citizen of the year in 2006.
Harold is survived by his wife, Jean; their children, Bruce (Kim) Harmsen, Susan (Marc) Kiehna and Brenda (Jim) Heinzmann; four grandchildren, Lauren Kiehna, Whitney Heinzmann, Megan Smith and Adrian Harmsen; and two great-grandchildren, Henry and Norah Smith.
He will be remembered by colleagues, friends and the countless young men he coached and mentored.
Services will be at 11 a.m. Monday, Dec. 2, in Peace Lutheran Church in Steeleville, with Minister Deb Rathert officiating. Burial will follow at Peace Lutheran Cemetery in Steeleville. Visitation will be from 5 to 8 p.m. today, with an American Legion Service at 8 p.m. and from 7:30 to 11 a.m. Monday, all at Peace Lutheran Church in Steeleville.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be given to the Steeleville American Legion Baseball Program, Hospice of Southern Illinois or the Alzheimers's Association.
Wilson's Funeral Home in Steeleville is assisting the family with arrangements.
To sign the guest book online, visit www.wilsonsfuneralhome.net.