On Father’s Day Harry Minturn counts his blessings

Harry Minturn at his home a few days before Father’s Day 2014.

Harry Minturn at his home a few days before Father’s Day 2014. Photo by David Wilson.

On Father’s Day, Harry Minturn can count his 87 years as successful, with three children successful in their own right, nine grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, a successful business career spanning 50 years and many years of service to the community in a variety of organizations in his resume´.

The long-time California resident was born in Leavenworth, Kan. in 1927. He spent his early years at Bagnell where his father helped build Bagnell Dam. As the work there lessened, they moved to Eldon where he started the sixth grade. While there, he played varsity basketball and edited the school newspaper. Graduating from Eldon High School in 1945, Minturn joined the United States Naval Reserves in the fall of the year, serving on a submarine rescue ship. In 1946, his ship and crew were posted to the Pacific Ocean, specifically to Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. There, in July, they took part in the atomic bomb tests, called Able and Baker. Able was set off at an altitude of 520 feet. Baker, several weeks later, was an underwater blast, set off 90 feet under the surface of the sea. Minturn was one of the sailors ordered to stand on the deck of the ship, with back to the explosion and eyes closed. He reported the concussion was almost unimaginable.

Minturn’s naval career didn’t last past 1946, since the military was cutting personnel drastically after the end of World War II. The reservists were among the first to be released. He arrived back in the states in time to move to California in the fall to become manager of the newly opened Family Shoe Store on Oak Street. It was a busy time. He and Patti were engaged during Christmas of 1946 and were married in June of 1948. They purchased the shoe store in 1950, operating it until retirement in 1996.

They have three children: Linda Washburn (husband Bill), Lake Ozark, a retired school administrator, who is currently director of a career education consortium; Jo Ann “Jody” Blevins (husband Melvin), Smithville, Tenn., a R.N.; and Jim (wife Penny), Honolulu, Hawaii, retired from the United States Forestry Service. He said Linda and Jody were both gifted at the piano and Jim was a good football player.

On March 14, 1949, he was one of 46 charter members of California Kiwanis Club. In the last 65 years, he has held many offices in the organization, and as the only living charter member, has a special seat reserved at the regular Monday meetings. Because of a good singing voice, he has been referred to as the “Tony Bennett” of California Kiwanis.

Kiwanis wasn’t his only interest. He was a member of C.P.I (California Progress, Inc.), a board member of the Wood Place Library and California Chamber of Commerce, holding a variety of offices in that organization. For a time, he chaired an organization known as the Industrial Development Committee. For many years, he was active in the California Country Club, and was chairman of the committee overseeing the construction of the grass greens. Today, he can still be found on the golf course for at least a few hours many days of the year, although he says his golf game is nowhere near as good as it once was. He keeps trying, though, and practices his putting skills in his living room.

In 1971, Minturn was honored by the Chamber of Commerce as Citizen of the Year. He also is an Elder in the California First Christian Church and served as chairman of the committee which oversaw the building of the church fellowship hall and remodeling of the sanctuary. He is also well-known among car enthusiasts, since his usual tranportation is a vintage GMC Cabellero (GMC’s version of the Chevrolet El Camino).

Minturn has had his setbacks, such as serious hearing problems and leukemia, both believed to be related to his exposure to the Bikini Atoll nuclear blasts. Hearing aids have helped a little with one problem and he has been successfully treated for the other. His wife Patti died October 2013.

Overall, he can count his blessings in having a successful life. Not only for his 50 years as a businessman and 65 years serving the community in many organizations. On this Father’s Day, he can note that he and his wife raised three successful children. In addition, with the Kiwanis activities he participated in over his many years of membership, he helped many other children in having better lives.

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