There are sports fans and then there are those who stand out as bigger than life. Barry Harmon was one of those people.
Barry passed away on Tuesday morning. When the news started to circulate on the social media network and via phone calls, many people were caught off guard.
Barry had battled health problems the last few years, but he could still be seen attending local high school basketball games. I saw Barry last week at his beloved Williamson Fieldhouse watching a Mingo Central basketball game.
Then I saw him at a Tug Valley game down at Naugatuck. I remember our last conversation. I told him “How about those Lakers!” If you knew Barry, he was a diehard Los Angeles Laker fan. If you know me, you know I am one of the biggest Boston Celtic fans around these parts.
The night before, the Celtics had beaten the Lakers – so I had to rib Barry a little. But he didn’t mind. That was Barry. And believe me, he could give it back. So you had to get a jab in when you could.
Over the years there wasn’t a bigger Williamson Wolfpack fan. From the 1970s to when WHS was consolidated a couple of years ago, Barry attended hundreds of games. He was known around the state.
I once attended a Wolfpack football playoff game up in the northern panhandle. A complete stranger from the opposing team came up to me and wanted to know where Barry was at. He had met Barry at one of the many state basketball tournaments he attended over the years.
He was always connected to the maroon and white.
This was partly because Barry was a very vocal fan. No offense intended, but Barry could be contentious if you were a player for the other team. He would also ride the opposing coaches and try to get under their crawl.
If you were a referee, you had probably been on the receiving end of one of his tirades. But after the game Barry was always there to shake hands and congratulate both teams.
Many remember Barry’s Wolfpack van that he drove to many games back in the 1980s. He would haul players to games, as well as local fans, many of them fellow firefighters at the Williamson Fire Department.
Lots of players wanted to ride to the games with Barry. Once, when I was broadcasting Wolfpack games on WBTH, I made the trek in the back of the van to Oceana with Barry and a few others. To say the least, that was a memorable trip.
On Tuesday night I broke the news to former Wolfpack coach Allan Hatcher. Barry was a huge supporter of Hatcher during his days at WHS and, like many others, he was saddened to hear the news.
During the early 1980s, WSAZ’s PM Magazine came down to do a segment on the fierce Williamson-Logan basketball rivalry. They went around town interviewing fans and filmed some of the game and big pep rally. Barry was mentioned on the show and they showed a brief clip of him at one of the games. I guess he got his 15 minutes of television fame.
However, the announcer got his name wrong. Instead of calling him “super fan” Barry Harmon, they called him Barry “Hamlin.” I teased him about that for years and many times would call him Barry Hamlin.
Barry was also a diehard WVU fan and proudly wore his Mountaineer gear with pride. He attended many West Virginia games in Morgantown. I made that trek about three years ago with Barry to a WVU-UConn basketball game. He was fun to be around.
Like many local fans, Barry shared a love for the Mountaineers and the Cincinnati Reds.
Many times if he had an argument about a sports trivia question – or just couldn’t remember a particular player’s name from the old days, he would call me up to see if I knew. Those calls made me feel important to my old friend.
Over the years Barry made many relationships with the kids from Williamson High School, as well as many of those from other local schools. He was loved by many. Some of them called him “uncle” Barry.
Barry had retired from the Williamson Fire Department, but still hung around the office. He was a fixture at the department, just like he was a regular fixture at Lefty Hamilton Park or the Williamson Fieldhouse.
Facebook was bombarded with messages after the news of Barry’s death on Tuesday. He touched many lives over the years.
A few months back, Barry had given his life to the Lord. So this is comforting news for many of us and for some that may have not known that he had become a Christian.
He truly seemed like a changed person over the last year. I even had a couple of people tell me that he had come up to them and apologized for arguments or disagreements he had had with them in the past.
If you know Barry, that was a big step for him to have taken.
Barry will long be remembered in the Tug Valley area. He was a genuine icon on the local sports scene.
If you want to pay your last respects to Barry, his wake will be at the East Williamson Baptist Church today from 11 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and his funeral at 12 noon on Friday.
Rest in peace Barry Harmon, heaven must have needed another fan on the sidelines to cheer for God’s team.
(Kyle Lovern is the sports editor for the Williamson Daily News. Comments or story ideas can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com)