Longtime justice of the peace left legacy of giving
by Tim Delaney
Nov 02, 2013 | 496 views | 0 0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Contributed photo
Glenn Harsdorff is fifth from left. He and the others had just returned from the last landing in Burma (Tongoo) in 1945. With their huge glider, a CG-4A, they took 55-gallon drums of gasoline for British tanks.
Contributed photo Glenn Harsdorff is fifth from left. He and the others had just returned from the last landing in Burma (Tongoo) in 1945. With their huge glider, a CG-4A, they took 55-gallon drums of gasoline for British tanks.
Contributed photo
Glenn Harsdorff mans the till  with a couple of sailing buddies in an undated photograph.
Contributed photo Glenn Harsdorff mans the till with a couple of sailing buddies in an undated photograph.
WOODSBORO – With a bad back and treading water in Aransas Bay without a life jacket, Glenn Harsdorff thought, “How am I going to get out of this one?”

He began swimming to shore because he thought the sailboat he was on was not going to come back for him. After all, the boat continued on its course when it could have turned about.

His sailing friend, C.M. “Cap” Henkel, had tacked, and the sailboat’s boom had knocked Glenn in the water.

Eventually, Henkel tacked again and headed back toward Glenn.

Angry, Harsdorff blurted out: “Capt., why didn’t you [expletive] just turn about and come get me [more expletives]?”

Not missing a tick, Henkel said, “You [expletive] always said you could walk on water!”

Of course, the exchange was between two very close friends who shared the love of sailing.

Dorothy, Glenn’s wife, said Glenn, Cap Henkel and his wife, Kitty, and Bill and Martha Lamson were good friends, and all had quite a few adventures together.

The late C.M. “Cap” Henkel was once the publisher and owner of the Refugio County Press and wrote Coffee Time, a column he said he wrote from Frandolig Island. He died in May 2002.

And his sailing buddy, Glenn Harsdorff, died Monday, Oct. 21, at age 90. His funeral was held Saturday, Oct. 26.

“He was a storyteller. He has been called a philosopher. He could always make you laugh. Most of the time, the stories were pretty close to the truth,” said his stepdaughter Debbie Dean, who now lives in Fort Lauderdale, Fla

Dorothy recalls a story that Glenn told from his childhood. He had a good friend in Gene Tuttle.

“They kind of grew up together, playing baseball where the Mission River Oaks are now. They called it the callaboose,” Dorothy said.

Anyway, Charlie Tuttle, Gene’s brother, was on one of the bases when somebody hit a home run.

Charlie happened to have some matches in his back pocket.

“He slid into home plate, and the matches sparked. He was hopping around like a jackrabbit because his butt was on fire, or at least that’s how Glenn told it,” Dorothy said.

“His war stories were exciting and very colorful,” Debbie said, “and only he could make eating a monkey or rat sound like a good thing.”

Glenn had served in the U.S. Navy, followed by the U.S. Army Air Corps First Air Comando Force in the China-Burma-India Theater.

Glenn flew co-pilot in CG-4A Waco gliders, which could hold numerous troops, fuel and equipment, on three missions into Burma.

C-46s towed the gliders, two at a time.

“I remember when he was telling me about the glider pilot training, just before the invasion. The latrines were situated at the front end of the landing strip. He was heading for one when a glider came in too low and clipped the top, exploding the outhouse and exposing the poor occupant who took off screaming with his pants down. I wish I could tell it like Glenn did because I laughed until I cried,” recounts Debbie.

Later, Glenn began a more than 20-year-career as a Refugio County justice of the peace.

U.S. Highway 77 was a two-lane highway early in his career as a justice of the peace.

Once, he got a call about a car on fire.

“He said it was extremely difficult – seven bodies. He did the pronouncement, and Father Ed Kirscher came out to bless the souls.” Dorothy said.

That was the tough part of a JP’s job.

Prior to becoming JP, Glenn had operated a water well drilling service and lumberyard doing business as Homeco.

He eventually sold the drilling rig to Whit Lamson, who in turn sold it to Scott Carter.

“Scott would come over to the office (Glenn’s JP office), and they would talk about drilling water wells,” Dorothy said.

Through the years, Glenn continued to help people.

Dorothy said Glenn had lots of books that he enjoyed loaning to others and was well read.

“Glen gave me books I would read. Glenn taught me there was a whole lot more ... to never stop, to try to do more,” said Manuel Vela of Goliad.

Dorothy said Glenn had lots of books and was well read.

Vela said he was a 1984 Texas A&M University graduate with a degree in animal science, and all he wanted was to be a cowboy.

“Glenn taught me not to be content with being a cowboy, and to never stop,” Vela said.

Glenn’s son died earlier before Vela’s dad died.

“I loved my dad very much. I learned my work ethic from my dad. Be honest, work hard and do not be ashamed of who you are,” Vela said.

“I could never replace his son, but with me being around, I thought I might help him, too,” Vela said.

Through the years, Vela and Glenn became close especially after Manual’s own father died at an early age, maybe you could tie that in here

“He was like a father to me,” Vela said. “I’ll miss him till I’m gone. He helped me be who I am.”

Glenn retired at the end of December 2002 from his justice of the peace work. Dorothy said Glenn commented: “You’ve just got to know when to quit.”

“Even after retirement, he still sat back in that JP office and talked to people,” Dorothy said.

“And he enjoyed going to Bob’s (McGuill) office at the courthouse and talking with Bob and Willie Brown,” Dorothy said.

“Sitting around the table telling war stories – he did that a lot over the years,” said former county attorney Bob McGuill.

“He had a diverse background. The whole time he was a JP, I was a prosecutor. I got to know the man. To me, he was a very just man,” McGuill said.

“He made no distinction for what walk-of-life people came in. He had a heart of gold,” McGuill said.

McGuill said the past year has been difficult because he lost two of his best friends: Glenn Harsdorff and Willie Brown.

McGuill said they’d go to the “Zarsky sloughs close to the mouth of the Aransas River. We went fishing down there many years.”

Dorothy added that Glenn enjoyed being with his fishing buddies, saying they also would go down to Copano Bay near Bayside and then go to Crofutt’s afterward for a sandwich.

McGuill said Harsdorff was a “homespun philosopher,” who touched on many different philosophies.

Dorothy said Glenn loved to talk about books McGuill and he were reading.

“He had a wonderful time in Bob’s office,” she said.

“He was the type of person who had a zeal and zest for life. He helped so many people. And he was so positive about everything,” McGuill said.

McGuill recalled that Glenn loved peppers, and one time Glenn got a really hot one from McGuill.

“He turned really red,” McGuill said, laughing. But Glenn acted like nothing was wrong.

“He has a lots of friends from every walk of life. He never took any thanks for it. He didn’t want any publicity, and for several years, he sent donations to a children’s home,” McGuill said.

McGuill said Harsdorff was a “unique’ person.

Harsdorff’s daughter, Linda Harsdorff Lees, said her father was brought up to be giving without expecting payment.

“Dad had two different chapters. It’s difficult because my parents were divorced. He married two Dorothys. His first wife was a Dorothy,” Lees said.

“He told me, ‘This way, I won’t forget her name.’ My childhood was a little bit different,” she said.

“When I grew up, my dad was really a character. There was nothing he wouldn’t have tried,” Lees said.

For example, he flew and antique aircraft (much like the one the Wright Brothers flew).

“He was a pretty good pilot, but the first Dorothy made him give it up because of a close call,” Lees said.

Lees said she always knew her dad was fearless.

“He is still with me. I did not say bye to Dad,” Lees said.

She said her husband Ron made it to the hospital first after they were notified that he had passed.

She was 15 minutes behind her husband.

She said her husband said, “I felt him grip my hand.”

“There are no words to explain what had happened. Instead of being broken up, I felt at peace,” Lees said. She said her dad was an active man and would have hated the condition he wound up in.

My dad always said, “The answer is ... there is no answer.”

His stepdaughter, Debbie Dean said, “I miss him. I’ve done more with my life because he inspired me. He had so many adventures I wanted for myself.

“I was 16 years old when Glenn came into my life. My best friend said about him that he never judged us. Instead, he guided us,” Debbie said.

Sure enough, Glenn took 1 a.m. phone calls from Debbie and his son Buddy when they attended university.

Debbie graduated in 1984 and Buddy finished med school in 1978.

But Buddy died in 1984 from lymphoma cancer.

And now Glenn is gone.

“It’s just a big void in our life. There’s something missing that will be impossible to fill in my life,” Debbie said.

Dorothy agreed.

“He was so special. He was the love of my life. We did everything together,” Dorothy said.

“He always wanted to make sure I was all right,” she added. “I feel he’s with his family in spirit.
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