Graybill Harman

Obituary of Graybill Burger Harman

Graybill B. “Grabe” Harman took his final flight on 15 May 2016, just hours before his 94th birthday. Born in Chillicothe, Ohio, on 16 May 1922, he was the first son of Howard and Grace Harman. He is survived by his brother, Frederick, of Reading, Pennsylvania, but was preceded in death by his wife of 56 years, Frances Glashine Harman. Grabe retired as a WWII Navy Flying Boat Pilot and Squadron Commander. He married Frances Glashine in 1944 and they set up housekeeping at NAS Banana River, Florida, where he was a Navy PBM Flight Instructor. This was followed by a tour of duty in the Philippine Islands, flying throughout the Western Pacific. Following WWII he continued his flying career in the Naval Air Reserve, flying numerous naval aircraft and commanding a West Coast P2V “Neptune” squadron. Grabe took his aviation skills into the aircraft industry, where he worked with North American Aviation/Rockwell in Columbus, Ohio, and Downey, California. He then transitioned into the space industry as he joined the effort to “put a man on the moon.” The family returned to the Cape Canaveral area in 1963 with the advanced Apollo Launch Team. After Apollo, he also participated in the Skylab and Shuttle Programs with McDonald Douglas, Lockheed, and the United Space Alliance. Grabe is survived by two sons and a daughter, Richard Lee Harman of Camano Island, Washington; Thomas Howard Harman of Miami, Florida, and Susan Camille Harman of Flagstaff, Arizona; three grandchildren, Ben, Meredith, and Allison; and two great grandchildren, Annelise and Oliver. Grabe’s wife, Frances, predeceased him in 2000 after 56 years of loving marriage. Grabe was a member of several National Military organizations and was active on the Board of Directors of the Mariner/Marlin Association and the PBY Catalina International Association. Locally, he was a life member of American Legion Post 359 of Port St. John, with over 60 years of participation. For many years, Grabe ushered in the drive in worship service of the First United Church of Cocoa, Florida. To our extended family at Buena Vida, please join us as we raise a toast to Grabe! And what a fine fellow he has been! Aviator, husband, father, space engineer and now, cub reporter for the Buena Vida “News, Views and World Guardian!” Cookie maker. Outing organizer. Cumshaw artist. Patriot. Who else raises and lowers his own veranda flag each morning and evening? …And indeed, an all-around good guy! Dad was born 94 years ago on May 16, 1922 in Chillicothe, Ohio, the first of two youngsters born to Howard and Grace Harman. His dad, a 1911 medical school graduate, joined the Army and spent with Grace the war years (WWI) in the Philippines. Dad and his brother suffered the loss of their mother in 1936, when Dad was 14. Both were sponsored to a high school education at Culver Military Academy. With the outbreak of WWII, Dad joined the Navy; his younger brother, the Army. Grandfather Harman was recalled and the Harman house in Chillicothe sported three silver stars for the duration. Dad was the first Harman to join the Navy since the War of 1812 (or so the story goes). He was the first Harman to become a pilot and Designated Naval Aviator. Because of his Culver training, he was a 21 year old Ensign “plane commander” and traveled to Alameda, California to receive a crew and a brand new PBY flying boat. Some 20 hours later, he and the crew landed in Hawaii; a fairly amazing feat given the circumstances of the day (no GPS). Dad’s navy career included flying all over the Pacific in the PBM seaplane, doing air/sea rescue and anti-submarine patrols. He became a reservist and continued flying large naval aircraft: ending as Commanding Officer of a P2V Neptune Squadron. He retired from the Naval Reserve as a Commander. Dad met our mother, Frances, in 1943 and married in 1944. They raised the three of us: Dick, Tom, and Suzy. Born and dubbed “Graybill Burger Harman” prompted NO family names for us! We lived in Columbus, San Diego, and Cocoa. They did their best to raise us to be honorable, productive citizens. Daughter-in-law Barbara (Tom’s wife) and Judy (Dick’s) have made Dad a grandparent three times (Ben, Meredith, and Allison!). Dad and Mom enjoyed nearly 56 years of life together, Mom passing in 2000. Of particular note is Dad’s care of my mother during the five years of her illness, a gift to us children that we can only now begin to appreciate. Dad’s professional career was in aviation, first (and it turns out last) at North American. He helped bring about the T-28 Trojan, the F-100, and the AJ Vigilante in the early days and then transferred to Cape Kennedy in 1964 to help put men into outer space. Dad scoffs at the “steely-eyed missile man” characterization but, indeed, he was one of those gents. We used to watch the Apollo and Space Shuttle launches from the roof of our house. Dad received a letter of “thanks” via NASA, signed by some 36 original Astronauts. Typical of many “ho-hum” engineers, he cut the letter down to fit the size of the frame he happened to have on hand, cutting the bottom of the “g” in Neil Armstrong’s signature! Pure Grabe. There are many, many interesting stories. So he retired. Or did he? Post retirement, Dad couldn’t slow down and was asked by his Navy buddy, fellow engineer and friend, Jim Pearce, to lend a hand at Jim’s new business, American Marine. AM developed and continues to make containment booms that float around oil spills anywhere in the world. At “Marine,” he was always happy to be “a part of the gang,” especially the production crew, most of whom he knows by name. Well, after being parent-to-the-children for so many years, the time finally came for the sons and daughters to become “parent” to the dad. For several years, Dad’s eyesight was failing due to macular degeneration. For years, his ophthalmologist son exhorted him to stop driving. As you may have already determined, as the saying goes: “You can always tell a Naval Aviator but you can’t tell him much!” Two fender-benders later, a search was made and Buena Vida discovered! Leaving the ancestral family of home of nearly 50 years, the rest is history. It was gratifying to hear “why did I wait so long” to find such a dandy place? Warm to all comers, activities galore, new places to see and people to meet. The move to Buena Vida genuinely added years of life to our remarkable dad, a founding member of “the Greatest Generation”.A Celebration of Life and 94th Birthday Party was held on the 15th of May at Buena Vida Estates, where Grabe lived independently until his passing. He enjoyed many friends and will be remembered for his pithy articles and leadership of the Buena Vida Newsletter. He will be interred at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, Florida, on June 7th at 1 pm. There he will be reunited with his wife who has been waiting patiently at Bushnell since 2000.The family requests, in lieu of flowers, donations in Grabe’s name to the PBY Naval Air Museum ( or the favorite charity of your choice.
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