Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Michael S. Harris, BHS 1961

Michael S. Harris, BHS 1961 Michael S. Harris, 70, of Kalispell, passed away suddenly in his home on Oct. 1, 2013, due to complications of recent cancer surgery. He fought a valiant fight against cancer over the past 20 months, but his quality of life had deteriorated to the point where he became tired of fighting, and his heart just couldn't take the strain any longer. Mike, or Mickey, as he was known as a youngster, was born in Glendale, Calif., in May 1943 and grew up in Burbank. He graduated from Burbank High School in 1961 and continued on to earn a degree in aerospace technology from Glendale City College in 1967.Mike was always fascinated by airplanes and flying while growing up. He earned his private pilot's license in 1962 and continued flying privately well into the 1980s. He met his first wife and the mother of his children, Cheryl Moore, in 1962 while both were members of the flight club at Glendale City College, and they married in April 1963. First a son, Steven, was born and then a daughter, Jennifer, but their union wasn't meant to endure and sadly ended in divorce after 12 years. The couple maintained a sometimes strained, but mostly amicable relationship while their kids were growing up, and they were able to become much better friends during these last years of his life. Mike later met Laura (Stump) Wakelin while both were working at Lockheed. They married in June 1977 and were together until her death in January 1996. In keeping with his love of airplanes and flying, Mike worked for Lockheed Martin Corporation for over 37 years, first in their Burbank facilities and then at their Skunk Works operations in Palmdale, Calif. He began his career fresh out of high school and worked his way up to become a design specialist/aerospace engineer with a top secret security clearance. He was involved in notable aircraft projects such as the L-1011, SR-71 Blackbird, F-117A stealth fighter, and most recently acted as the lead designer on the YF-22 advanced tactical fighter. He was happily able to retire at the age of 55 in 1998, and he left California for good in 1999 for the much cleaner big skies of Montana. Throughout his life and especially during his retirement years, Mike was an enthusiastic marksman and collector of guns, both antique and new, and was also a skilled ammunition reloader. He was a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, in addition to being an active member of the North Valley Sportman’s Club in Columbia Falls. He also loved building model cars and airplanes, but was sadly unable to complete any models recently due to chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy in his fingertips.
The "Old West," World War II and tough-guy actors and great Americans John Wayne and Clint Eastwood were also Mike's passions. He was an avid historian, especially concerning the history of the war and the Oregon and California trails. He was able to visit Pearl Harbor many years ago as one of his dream vacations. However, his ultimate dream vacation was to trace the Oregon Trail from its start in Missouri all the way to its end, but with the previous cancer treatments and now his sudden passing, that dream will regrettably remain unfulfilled. Mike is survived by his children, son Steven Harris of Elko, Nev., and daughter Jennifer Harris of Bigfork; sister and brother-in-law, MaryKay and Don Stroum, of Tigard, Ore.; sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Diana and John Fregeau, of Montague, Calif.; ex-wife, Cheryl Harber, of Bigfork; and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews. He also leaves behind his beloved dog and faithful companion, Chucky. Mike was preceded in death by his parents, Roland "RW" and MaryAnna (Harvey) Harris; and his wife, Laura. The family is planning a memorial service and ash-scattering ceremony to be held in late spring or early summer of 2014. “We will truly miss Mike's laughter and sense of humor, his knowledge and wisdom on so many topics, the way he barbecued tri-tip and burgers until they were like charcoal, his love of dogs, his appreciation of camping and relaxing under the stars in the shadow of Mount Shasta, and just being able to call him every evening to say hello and hear him end the call with, ‘I love you, sweetie.’ He left us too soon, but his spirit lives on in us forever.” In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be given to the Humane Society of Northwest Montana or the American Cancer Society. Johnson-Gloschat Funeral Home and Crematory is caring for Mike's family. You are invited to go to www.jgfuneralhome.com to view Mike's guest book, offer condolences and share memories.

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