Cover photo for William Harkness's Obituary
1922 William 2014

William Harkness

September 4, 1922 — January 7, 2014

The story of Bill Harkness began when a Scottish immigrant, Jimmy, met a first generation American beauty, Eva Julia Stebbings, in New York State. They were married and began a family of five children - Julia, Eva, Jimmy, Gordon and Bill. Bill was born on September 4th, 1922 after his family moved to Southern California and settled in Hollywood. When seven years old, the great depression began. He lived through the depression until he went to war in 1943. His parents lost everything in the depression including three promising peaces of land. They eventually moved into a garage that was divided into two rooms on an acre of land. They were very poor. His father never found work from 1937 until his death, yet he never took welfare. Instead, he worked the acre of land and Bill's mother washed and ironed clothes keeping the family afloat. At 7 years old he sold newspapers for 5 cents and got to keep a penny and a half per paper sold. He stood in the middle of the street assigned to him and would ride on the running boards of the cars until change was made. He once sold more papers in Los Angeles except for one boy who sold a few more.

After high school, he learned a trade as a wood pattern maker, making forms for things that would later be made out of metal. He worked for Lockheed and built a solid mahogany mock up of the first B-17 nose cone. He also made the escape hatch for the pilots on that plane. It was then used to make the molds for the plastic nose in production. This kept him out of the war because of the importance of his work. But when completed he was called up and joined the Marines. He was assigned to a squad of 37 men who with 7 pilots that had 180 horse power Lancome wooden planes with cloth wings. He was the airplane carpenter for them throughout the war. He never fired his gun, but was stationed on Gaudalcanal, Guam and Iwo Jima. He repaired one crashed plane during the war.

After his group returned to San Francisco, he met Shirley Lucille Nelson while they were both on furlough at the Palladium dance hall with the Tommy Dorsey band playing. He saw her and thought that it would be easier to ask a girl in uniform to dance; she was a Wave, then a civilian. They danced, he made a date to take her to see The Red Mill play, and after 5 dates in two weeks they were engaged. Stationed at different ends of the USA, it took a year for them to both be discharged. They were married 4 months later. Their marriage lasted 58 years until Shirley died at 79 years old in 2004. He was a LA City fireman for 22 years and started a pest control company that he worked for 25 years before retiring. They bought a 1240 square foot home with one bathroom and no basement in Van Nuys and lived in that home for over 30 years before moving to Utah. They had 3 boys, the middle one living for only 3 days, and adopted the joy of the family, a little angel named Cathy, when Gordon was 11 and Richard was 7 years old.

Bill's childhood family has all passed before him. Gordon, his brother 4 years his senior, died at 19 years old in 1937 and Jimmy, 6 years older, died at 33 in 1947. His dad died at 90 years old in 1971, his mom at 90 years old died in 1978. His sister Eva, 10 years older, died in 1993 at 82 years old and Julia, 14 years older than Bill, died at 92 in 2001. He is survived by his wife, Marlene, 3 surviving children, 16 grand children and 31 great grandchildren and one more on the way.

Bill's decision with Shirley to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has had a huge impact on the lives of all of his descendants. His sons have served 5 missions together for the church. Dad's oldest sister and Mom's younger sister both joined the church, along with other family members. There have been at least 13 full time missions and two Tabernacle Choir missions served as a result of Bill and Shirley joining the church. These missions have brought hundreds into the church - his greatest legacy.
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