Harald Bach

Harald Bach, 81, passed away unexpectedly in his home on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013, with his wife at his side. Harald was born to the Rev. Harald and Agnes Bach. He grew up in rural Coon Valley, WI, the youngest of five boys and an older sister. His father served as a pastor for three Lutheran churches. Harald told the story of hopping on a train with a friend, each with one of his older brother's handguns strapped under their coats. Their plan of jumping off to go shooting was foiled as the conductor picked up speed. By the time the train slowed, they were someplace in Illinois in the middle of the night. Hitchhiking home, they arrived about dawn. The energetic young Harald gave his parents a lot to pray about. He graduated from West High School in Madison, WI. During that time, he sang in the church choir with his future wife, Jeannine. They would have celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary last week. Harald remained active in church throughout his life, participating in choirs, church councils, and one year a Christmas visit to bring presents to an orphanage in Juarez, Mexico. Harald enlisted in the Navy in 1951 and started out in training to be a dental technician. After a year he switched to flight school and earned his Gold Navy Wings in 1953, following in the footsteps of his four naval aviator brothers. He flew the F2H2 Banshee; a single seat, carrier-based jet fighter from the USS Intrepid. Being blessed with a world at peace, he had no war stories to tell, but did say the most unnerving thing he ever had to do was land at night on the deck of a carrier, pitching in high seas and with his aircraft running low on fuel. Harald used to watch boxing on TV and really laugh when someone was getting their "clock cleaned." When asked why, he said, "I used to have to box in the Navy. I hated it and I can't believe these guys do it on purpose." In the Navy, he saw the world, he learned to fly and box, he trained to be a dental technician and along the way he fell in love with airplanes. He left the Navy in 1956. In 1957 Harald became an air traffic controller in Milwaukee. Over the next few years they added Eric and Suzanne to their family. In 1961 he moved to Ypsilanti, MI, where Harald worked at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Harald loved air traffic control and proudly took his children up into the control tower, a darkened world of flashing green screens, thick cigarette smoke, white short sleeve dress shirts, ties and crew cuts; picture the Apollo 13 controllers but with less stress and more swearing. Harald switched into management in 1972, working in Muskegon, MI, until 1979 and then El Paso International Airport until he retired in 1986. During the air traffic controllers strike in the early 1980s, Harald was sent to New Orleans to control traffic there. He had just gotten his first pair of contacts with the instructions to only wear them for a few hours initially. After a 16 hour day at the tower he went to bed and woke up unable to open his eyes, or get the contacts out. That was the end of the contact experiment. He loved his work, never missing a day, and maintained friendships from wherever he worked that stayed with him throughout his life. In retirement, he went back to being an air traffic controller for 10 years at Fort Bliss' Biggs Army Airfield. He was thrilled to be there when the field needed to be used for landing the space shuttle. Another of his great loves was fishing. For over 30 years he would go with co-workers, friends and family to remote cabins in Canada where they would fish for trout, tell tall tales around the fire and enjoy laughter and cold fresh air. His best trips were the ones where his son Eric was able to join him. One of their most memorable trips was when they were in Hawk Junction, Ontario, Canada, when they got word that Harald's first grandson, Haakon ("Hawk" for short) was born to Suzie and Scott. They laughed, they cried, they bought Haakon a T-shirt. Harald is preceded in death by his parents and four siblings; Ann Marie, Robert, Haakon and Jacob. Harald is survived by his lovely wife, Jeannine, his best friend and son Eric, and his adoring daughter Suzie, along with Eric's wife, Sylvia, and their children Michael, Rebekah and Jacob, and Suzie's husband, Scott Wagner, and their children Haakon and Jacob. Harald is also survived by his brother, Capt. Sverre Bach and his wife, Kazuko. Extended family includes Anne, Jenny and Amy (daughters of brother Robert), Tippy, Jacob Jr., Rachel and David (spouse and children of brother Jacob), Rebecca (daughter of brother Sverre), and Marcia (daughter of brother Haakon). The world will miss his ready smile, calm demeanor and his way with a story; but in Jesus Christ our Savior we know we will see him again. Services will be held at St. Paul's United Methodist Church, 225 W. Griggs Ave, Las Cruces, at 11 a.m. Jan. 4, 2014. A donation to the St. Paul's memorial fund can be made in lieu of flowers.

Published in Las Cruces Sun-News on Dec. 31, 2013