Harold “Harry” Hartshorne Jr., quietly supported local charities throughout the area and is known for his benevolence.
However, when the Regional News contacted those who knew Hartshorne for this profile, talks of his charitable donations were secondary to the discussions about Hartshorne’s personality.
Hartshorne died on Oct. 28. He was 95. His obituary is on page 3D.
Eric Hurkman, who owns Fontana Jeweler, became friends with Hartshorne during a dinner party.
“He was the nicest, sweetest and kindest guy that one could possibly know,” Hurkman said. “He enjoyed life and he lived it up to the absolute fullest.”
Hurkman said when he first met Hartshorne he had returned from a trip to Egypt where Hartshorne rode a camel in front of the pyramids.
“I told people that he is in his 90s, but there is nothing he can’t do. He can go anywhere, he can do anything,” Hurkman said.
Hartshorne’s grandfather, Simeon Chapin, was one of the founders of the Geneva Lake Family YMCA and Horticultural Hall.
Throughout his life, both of those charities remained close to Hartshorne’s heart, and at Horticulture Hall he was referred to as the “Angel of Horticultural Hall.”
“He has made various donations and some of them pretty substantial,” Ron McCormack, who serves on the Horticultural Hall board said. “He often doesn’t want his name attached, and he does it very quietly. Many of the donations he made were not sought after. He just volunteered it when he saw a need. The last thing he ever wanted to do was call attention to himself, which is refreshing these days.”
In May, Hartshorne and Hurkman visited Washington, D.C., and went to the Jefferson Hotel for dinner. At the hotel, a concierge pointed Hartshorne to a piano bar.
Oddly enough, it was Hartshorne, who was in his 90s, keeping Hurkman, early 30s, and a friend of Hurkman’s, who was in his 20s, out late that night.
“The piano player knew every single style of music that Harry would want to hear. He knew Cole Porter and Gershwin music,” Hurkman said. “It was pretty late, it was probably close to midnight, and Harry said ‘I know you guys want to go, I just want to hear another song’... Here is Harry, 95 years old, and he was keeping a couple of young guys up.”
In 1940, Hartshorne earned his bachelor’s degree in English from Princeton University. After graduation, Hartshorne held a seat on the New York Stock Exchange for a year, before being drafted into the army.
At his father’s urging, Hartshorne transferred into the Air Force. In the Air Force, Hartshorne, who was fluent in French, trained French cadets to fly. Hartshorne was honored with French Wings by French President Charles DeGaulle.
A few years ago, Hartshorne, Hurkman and two other people flew in a biplane at the Grand Geneva, which gave Hartshorne a chance to relive some of his military experience.
“The driver is in the back behind you, and us four sat in front,” Hurkman said. “That was very reminiscent of that. Here is Harry, in his 90s, and he is living life to the fullest.”
After the war, Hartshorne planned to farm in Pennsylvania, but, Chapin suggested moving to Wisconsin. Hartshorne studied agriculture at the University of Wisconsin, and began his farming career by buying 2,000 chicks.
Stacey Porter, who owns Stacey Porter Antiques in Williams Bay, met Hartshorne when she was 3. Porter’s father was a realtor who had befriended the farmer.
“(My dad) loaded all of us kids into a (vehicle) and told us we were going to go meet a farmer,” Porter said with a laugh. “This was in 1960. Harry was in a red plaid shirt with a kerchief around his neck. And I thought if that is a farmer I want to be one. He looked like the most glamorous farmer.”
Hartshorne invited Porter’s family in for a drink, and Hartshorne’s staff was making mint juleps.
“Harry sat down — with his farmer clothes — at the piano and sang,” Porter said.
Porter remained friends with Hartshorne her entire life.
“Of all his qualities, Harry above all was kind,” Porter said as she started to cry. “Even with adversity, when people would yell at him or be confrontational. Harry was always calm, and he was always kind.”
During his life, Hartshorne met and was friends with historical people. When Hartshorne was in school, he was classmates with John F. Kennedy, Hurkman said.
“I believed him, but there was a little shade of doubt,” Hurkman said. “I think he picked up on that.”
So, the next time that Hurkman went to Hartshorne’s home, he had a yearbook open with a picture of Hartshorne with the future president.
Hartshorne was also a lover of the arts. According to his obituary, Hartshorne was “known to catch a last-minute flight to New York to attend a performance at the Metropolitan Opera House.”
Porter and Hurkman said Hartshorne also practiced proper dining etiquette and had an ageless class.
“When Harry was alone he would make a food tray and bring it into the living room to eat. But on that food tray he always had a linen placemat, sterling silver, hand-painted China and he always had a finger bowl. And he used it,” Porter said.
Hurkman said Hartshorne taught him about dining etiquette.
“When you are finished eating you place your silverware at the 5 o’clock position,” Hurkman said. “You scoop your soup away from you and if you want to tilt your bowl to get the last bit, you tilt it away from you to do that.”
Hartshorne is also remembered for his contributions to local organizations.
He was a contributor to the Lake Geneva Library, the Geneva Lake Family YMCA, George Williams College golf course, Holiday Home Camp and many more.
“If we were going to talk about all the generous things that, that family has done, we would go on forever,” Porter said. “Harry himself, kind, gracious and you knew when he loved you. He was fun and well-educated.”
However, Porter won’t just remember her friend for his generosity.
“If you were going to remember something about Harry Hartshorne, you would remember that he is kind,” Porter said.
“That would be his number one quality. His second quality would be gracious, he was unbelievably gracious. He always wanted to help everybody.”
B.G. O’Reilly the executive director of Horticultural Hall, also talked about Hartshorne’s personality.
“He is a true gentlemen. He greeted everyone with a smile, and he just brightened everyone’s day when they met him,” O’Reilly said.