WILLIAMSON — “They broke the mold when they made Barry Harmon,” stated Williamson Firefighter Brandon “Smiley” Hager, speaking of the death of a beloved member of the Tug Valley community who was also a former fireman. “There will never be another Barry.”
Harmon, 60, an East Williamson resident for most of his life and who has called Goodman Manor home for the past 4 years is very well known to everyone in the City of Williamson, as well as other areas. He passed away on Tuesday, Feb. 12, of an apparent heart attack at his residence. His death was discovered by several members of the Williamson Fire Department (WFD), including Chief Jerry Mounts.
“It was a very emotional time for us,” stated Mounts. “We were in Goodman Manor on another manner and were told by Barry’s caregiver that she hadn’t spoken with him since Monday. We went to his apartment and after knocking repeatedly and trying to reach him by phone, we entered. None of us had a good feeling about it and our fears were soon realized when we found him.”
Harmon was a career fire fighter from 1982 to 1993, and took a disability retirement because of health issues. He had been involved with the WFD since the age of 16 on a part-time basis, and was stationed in Alaska where he served as a firefighter in the United States Air Force.
“Barry was a bigger than life character,” said the Chief. “Everyone knew him, and everyone loved him. He had a special place in his heart for children and absolutely loved spending time with them.”
“When he spoke with and visited with our younger fire fighters here at the station, he greatly enjoyed telling them stories about the good ole’ days as a fireman and encouraged all of us to appreciate the chance we’ve been given to serve the residents of Williamson and to never fail to develop pride and professionalism in our work.”
Lt. Garrett “G” Gregory, a former sports star who played for the Williamson Wolfpack, told the Daily News that one memory of Barry that he holds dear is when the sports fan attended the 2001 State Championship game in Charleston, after being unable to go to games for approximately 5-6 years because of health reasons.
“They took the seats out of his customized van and loaded him and his wheelchair up and brought him to Charleston. After the end of the game, the crowd was going wild. There were probably 6,000 people in the Civic Center but above all the noise – I could clearly hear one voice yelling “G-Money!! I knew right off that it was Barry. I ran to where he was and gave him a big hug – it made my day to see him there sharing in our victory. I know how much it bothered him to miss our games.”
Chief Mounts remarked that in the early 80’s during the years that basketball superstar Mark Cline played for the Wolfpack, Harmon received an award from WSAZ Television 3, proclaiming him “Williamson Wolfpack’s # 1 Fan.” According to the chief, there was no one that deserved it more or fit the description better.
“I called him the Rainman, because he had the best memory when it came to the sports teams that were his favorites, such as WVU, the Cincinnati Bengals, Cincinnati Reds and the Las Angeles Lakers. You could ask him questions about any of them and he wouldn’t just tell you they won, he would give you exact details…he was amazing,” said Mounts.
“On my wedding day, approximately a year ago, I received a call from Barry,” stated Hager. “You could barely understand him on the voicemail, but he called me to let me know they were getting ready to put him on life-support and he wouldn’t be able to attend our wedding. I thank God that he allowed Barry to recover and to come back home, so that we would have the chance to spend more time with him and make more memories.”
“I came from a small family,” remarked Firefighter Michael Mounts, a 3rd generation fireman. “Thanks to Barry and other veteran fireman, I had 7 or 8 men that I considered my uncles…we were that close. I know that when someone dies, you’ll always have people step up and speak of what a good person the deceased was. We’re sitting here doing that today, sharing memoires and speaking of our love for Barry, but I have to truthfully say that no words could ever do him justice.”
“Anytime he knew we had a group of kids coming in for a tour of the fire station, Barry would be here if at all possible. He could get them to sit in the fire trucks and pose for a picture when no one else could. Children could sense his love for them and they would warm up to him in no time. He has spent countless hours with the children of firefighters, has taken them places - babysit them, attended their birthday parties…he’s left a hole in all of our lives that will never be filled,” stated Firefighter Matt Hatfield.
“He was like an uncle to all of us,” said WFD Lt. Joey Carey. “He used to come to the fire department every day and have lunch with us and sit around and talk about what it was like when he worked here. Barry was very close to my children, especially my oldest son Chandler. He took him to Charleston every year for the state tournaments when his health allowed. He would count down the days until the games were scheduled to begin. He has taken my kids to the swimming pool and spent the day with them when I had to work. He was an awesome guy.”
The fireman spoke of getting a phone call from Harmon every time 911 dropped the tones for them, making sure they got the call and were on their way. His health allowed him to show up at a fire on Peter Street last year and Lt. Gregory remarked that Harmon pulled as much fire hose as the fireman did.
“He told me he was sore the next day, but he pitched right in and worked alongside us…that’s what he loved. He was a fireman.”
Harmon’s wake is scheduled today from noon until 9 p.m., at the East Williamson Baptist Church. The funeral will be held at the church, at noon on Friday. He will be buried with full firefighter honors, with members of the WPD serving as pallbearers. Weaver’s Funeral Home is in charge of the service.