April 24, 2014

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54°
Feels Like: 51 °
Conditions at Parkersburg, Mid Ohio Valley Regional Airport, WV
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How I First Met Don Harman

The only WTAP staffer I once interviewed for a news story.

When I was told this week that Don Harman had died, it was the first time I had heard anything about him in years. But, like just about everyone else I've worked with at WTAP in 31 years, I immediately remembered him.

I can't say that about when Don first worked here.

Back in 1986, Marietta City Schools was hit by a teachers strike that ended up lasting a month, and which would prove to be divisive for years to come.  The first morning of that strike, our then-photographer Jeff Nutter and I were in the middle of what could charitably be described as a chaotic scene at Marietta High School.

There were supposed to be substitutes teaching the students, but when we arrived, it didn't look like many students were in class.  I wouldn't call the situation a riot, but, as I commented the other day, it was the closest thing to anarchy I have ever seen.  The students were so rambunctious that, at one point, they even were rocking our station van back and forth, in an apparent attempt to topple it.  (Unlike the situation at Penn State a few weeks ago, they did not succeed.)

In the midst of this mayhem, we managed to interview a couple of students about what was going on inside the school. One of them was Don, who probably was 16 at the time, who gave us a detailed description.

I forgot about that interview until about seven years later, when Don, who came to the station as the weekend weatherman, reminded me of it.  I went into our tape archive, and, sure enough, there he was, describing the chaos of that September day.

Later, when Don left for a morning weather job in Iowa, we reran that interview.

Much like a young John Fortney, Frank Marzullo, Ray Petelin and a few other weather people I have worked with here, Don was a happy-go-lucky guy both on and off the air. Based on TV clips I have seen of him in remembrances this week, he took that personality with him to all the stations he worked for after leaving WTAP. (Many of the people I just mentioned have posted their own recollections of him on Facebook.)

That makes the circumstances of his death difficult to believe, and I'll leave it at that.

But, having written in a previous blog about the aftermath of the death of Nancy Hickel in 1981, I have no trouble understanding the outpouring of emotions from viewers of his broadcasts in Kansas City.  While our viewers probably didn't know him as well, Don was a Marietta native and still had some family and friends here.

He never gained the stature of a Willard Scott or Al Roker, but the response to his untimely death brought the response worthy of a national celebrity.  Some writers have said, "he always made me smile".

That may well be his legacy.

 

 

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