Harley Michaelis

Harley Michaelis

February 19, 1921 —  October 12, 2020

Harley was born here to Herb and Anna Michaelis. Herb, a skilled meat cutter, worked at the Independent Meat Market at 2nd and Main. When the ‘29 Depression hit, he was ‘laid off and savings lost when his bank failed. There was no FDIC, welfare or food stamps. He found work at Hermiston at $12.50 a week.  

Harley got to Whitman on a Rotary Club tuition scholarship as a promising student/athlete. A physics degree qualified him for a naval commission. Orders required him being at Spokane the next morning to be sworn in. He could make it piloting a plane but couldn’t afford it. Harley’s employer, Harold Jackson, Shep’s Smoke Shop owner, intervened. Needing jugs of fountain syrup and wanted employee DV Jones along. A 3-seat plane was rented. At Spokane’s Felts Field, a car was rented, syrups purchased and Harley sworn in. With the two wing tanks topped off and the heavy glass jugs behind the guys, they were set to fly back. Overloaded, underpowered and tail heavy, the plane wouldn’t lift. Harley had the guys move the jugs forward around their feet and lean forward. Just about out of runway the tail lifted. Full power was needed to stay at treetop level. A classic scenario for lethal disaster, two hours of gut-wrenching anxiety followed. The guys went mute. Bucking a headwind, fuel consumption was high. Then, BIG CRISIS! Fuel wouldn’t flow from the 2nd tank! With not even 10 seconds of fuel left, Harley saved the plane, 3 lives and the syrup.

He first married Gwen Dunkin of Touchet. They divorced after 17 years. Gwen remarried and lived to 91. In 1961 Harley married Patricia Ione Light who came with children 2, 5 and 7. With 17-year old daughter Connie living at home, they had a houseful. Patricia was stricken with MS. Life got complicated. Her last 12 years she lived at Blue Mt. Convalescent Center. After 40 years of building a 1500 person clientele in the life insurance and annuity fields, Harley retired to actively pursue interests in the field of radio controlled sailplanes.

Survivors are daughter, Connie (Mrs. Sam Raguso) of Seattle; adopted daughter, Lora Lee (Mrs. Bill Sykes) of Walla Walla, their spouses and children; step-kids, Greg, Tana and their kids. The divergent pattern of Harley’s life and how it all connected

Arrangements were handled by Herrings without a service. Harley’s ashes are interred in his plat next to Patricia’s grave site at Mt. View Cemetery.