A memorial service is planned at the Masonic Home in Union City, California, in late March for long-time Lake City summer visitor Homer Harlan who died at the Union City rest home on February 3, 2017. Burial has taken place beside his first wife, Fern Harlan, at Petaluna, California.
Mr. Harlan, 95, began visiting Lake City on a near-annual summer basis beginning in the 1940s when his parents, Lt. Commander James Lea Harlan and his wife, Helen (Work) Harlan, acquired the snug stone and timber bungalow, and surrounding grounds, which had been built by Mrs. Harlan’s brother, noted Gunnison builder Dave Work.
The house and grounds are located in an open park on the north end of the Ball Flats later known as Harlan Meadow and today adjacent to the Town of Lake City’s waste water treatment plant.
Homer Harlan’s last visit to Lake City was in 2005 when he and his son, Don Work, drove out from California in an innovative hydrid car. His cousin, Lake City summer resident Helen Slattery, recalls that Homer was always intrigued by the latest technology and on his last visit to Lake City delighted in giving rides in the new-fangled auto to friends and neighbors.
Homer also revelled in driving an old Navy surplus jeep and could often be seen puttering about Lake City — wearing his trademark white hat and canvas shoes — or motoring to favorite fishing locales on Henson Creek or on Cottonwood Creek on the upper Lake Fork.
He and his second wife, Betty, were well known Lake City seasonal residents in the 1980s, Homer’s handiman talents — termed creative use of bailing wire by his cousin — keeping the aged church organ up and running for Sunday use by Barbara Parker and, occasionally, his wife, Betty.
The only son of James Lea and Helen Harlan, Homer was born at the home of his paternal grandparents in Salida, Colorado, in 1921. Lt. Commander Harlan was a career serviceman with the U.S. Navy, the family living for a time near the naval yards in Bremerton, Washington, and later San Diego, California, where Lt. Commander Harlan, a Veteran with service in both World War I and II, retired in 1947.
During his father’s naval career, Homer lived as a boy in Honolulu. A somewhat precocious boy, Homer and friends often skipped out to go
swimming in the ocean. He could be spotted even at far distance, however, by his bright red
Raising Harlan, his mother later recalled, was the biggest job in her life.
Homer was a naturally adept musician and after excelling at violin lessons in his pre-teens, played with the Honolulu Symphony starting at age 12.
At age 17, and following graduation from high school in San Diego, he followed his father’s footsteps as an enlistee in the U.S. Navy.
Homer was among the fleet stationed near the Bikini Atoll in the South Pacific when the first atomic bombs were tested in the late 1940s. As an exuberant sailor, Homer was tasked with propelling carts with torpedos down rails on shipboard. He received devastating injuries when one of the carts abruptly halted after striking a pin, the sudden stop propelling Homer — who was pushing the cart — over the torpedo and into the rails.
He received reconstructive surgery during lengthy hospitalization at Bethesda, Maryland. Retiring from the Navy after 20 years, Homer went on to later careers, including with the U.S. State Dept. at the U.S. Embassy in Liberia. He and his family later lived on the grounds at San Quintin Prison during the time he worked as electrician for the prison.
Homer was twice married. His first wife, Fern Harlan, died in the late 1970s. He was inconsolable after the death of his wife, a counselor advising that he should place a newspaper advertisement seeking a companion. It was in this manner that he met his second wife, Betty, whose colleagues initially encouraged her to respond to the advert.
They arranged to meet for a dinner date and Homer proposed on the third date. He was persistent, at one point arranging for an airplane to fly overhead with the fluttering banner, “Betty, Marry Me!”
Betty was at last convinced, painting acceptance of the marriage proposal, “Yes, Homer,” on her garage door.
The couple married in 1979, making their home at Hayward, California, near San Francisco, and spending many happy summers in Lake City.
Mrs. Harlan predeceased her husband in 2003. He was also predeceased by a son, James Harlan, who died in 2004.
Homer’s survivors are two sons, Tom Harlan and Don Harlan, who are the next generation owners of the bungalow in Harlan Meadow at Lake City, both of whom live in California. He is also survived by a step-son, Chuck Harlan, also of California; six granddaughters and four grandsons; and a daughter-in-law, Jim Harlan’s widow, Marie.
Other survivors are Homer’s three cousins, Betty Work Robinson, of Lyons, Kansas; Peter T. Work, Denton, Texas; and Lake City summer resident Helen Slattery who winters near Phoenix, Arizona.