Life Story / Obituary
On November 3, 1928, in Peach, Washington, Norman Eugene McHarris was born to William and Mary. As the fourth of six children in his family, he was a young man of his generation. His father worked on ranches taking care of the farm animals while his mother was a homemaker. When Norman’s maternal grandfather passed away, the McHarris family picked up and relocated to Morgantown, West Virginia, where his parents worked the family farm with his maternal grandmother. His father would also work in the coal mines and additionally made money with his true passion, painting. When Norm was in his early teens, his parents separated. Over the next several years, Norm and his brothers and sisters moved to Detroit with their mother who ran a restaurant. Norm graduated from Northern High School in June 1947.
In August of 1947, Norm joined the United States Air Force with his high school classmate, George. After basic training, Norm was stationed on the most scenically beautiful islands in the world, the Okinawa Islands, as part of the 1st Air Division. In 1947, the 1st Air Division was one of four major air units of the Far Eastern Air Force. The additional units included the Fifth Air Force, based in Japan; the 13th Air Force, based in the Philippines; and the 20th Air Force, with headquarters on Guam, based in the Mariana Islands. During the next three years, Norm was part of the intelligence division making topography maps. Although he did not talk about his military experience much, he would occasionally recall stories of missions with General MacArthur as well as stories of liberty in Shanghai, two and half hours away. Norm was honorably discharged in May of 1951 at the rank of Staff Sergeant.
After serving in the Korean War, Norm returned to Detroit. Continuing the topography skills he learned in the Air Force, he became certified in map drafting and topographic drafting from the United States Army Corps of Engineers (U.S. Lake Survey). After becoming certified, the United States Army Corps of Engineers hired him as Supervisory Cartographic Comp. Aid (1952-1955). For the next several years, Norm attended Detroit Time Study School studying mathematics, engineering, drafting, tool and die design, and process engineering. These skills led him to work at Whitman and Barnes (1955-1956), Timken Axle & Rockwell Spring Co. (1956-1957), Chrysler Corporation-8 Mile Plant (1957-1962), and the Electric Autolite Company (1962-1963). In 1963, Norm started to work at the Ypsilanti Plant of Ford Motor Company where was part of the Perma Magna Starter Team, which was responsible for redesigning the starters in Ford automobiles.
Norm was always grateful for family, especially the joy of being with his children, Michael, Jane, and Diane, as well as his grandchildren. He often mentioned how wonderful it is to have the support and love of family in both the good times and the not so good. Some of his biggest joys were walking his two daughters, Jane and Diane, down the aisle at their weddings. The birth of his first grandchild, Danielle, and then the second, Alexa, filled his heart with joy and love. Norm was also blessed with a blended family of 5 grandchildren, Lea, Shannon, Michael, Casey, and Courtney, and 6 great-grandchildren, Anthony, Isabel, Jasmyn, Natalea, Giovanni, and Savanna.
One of Norm’s hobbies was fixing televisions, record players, and small appliances. He would collect broken televisions and repair them to give to people. He also enjoyed listening to music, especially Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash.
As the years went on and the memories faded, Norm was fortunate to have an additional “family” within his assisted living community. There, he was known for many things including his smile, unique character, his kind nature, and sense of humor. Oh, the stories that can be told. Norm enjoyed movies, the game show channel, celebrations, especially if they included dessert, hanging out with the guys, and of course taking a nap.
Norm will be extremely missed but his spirit, smiles, and signature phrases will live on in all of us.
Norman Eugene McHarris, age 86, passed away unexpectedly February 12, 2015. Beloved father of Diane (Michael) Fiolek, Michael, and Jane (Ken). Loving grandfather of 2. Dearest step-grandfather of 5, and great step-grandfather of 6. Family will receive friends at our Neely-Turowski Life Story Funeral Home, 45100 Warren road, Canton, (btwn Sheldon and Canton Ctr Rds) Saturday 1pm-6pm. Sign the guest book and share memories at: www.turowskilifestory.com.