Harley H. Flathers

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  • "Harley was one of the most positive people we ever met. ..."
    - Bridget & Tim Jacobson
  • "There will never be another like Harley. He and my husband..."
    - Sheri Hayden
  • "I worked with Harley at KWEB in the late 80's early 90's...."
    - Julie Grabow
  • "I enjoyed listening to Harley on the radio and his weekly..."
    - Jerry McGrath
  • "My wife & only I counted ourselves among Harley (and June)..."
    - Frank & Dottie Hawthorne
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Harley H. Flathers, 84, of Rochester, passed away on Monday, Jan. 25, at Mayo Clinic Hospital-Saint Marys Campus following a brief illness. A celebration of life is planned at Christ United Methodist Church in Rochester at 11 a.m. Friday, Feb. 12.

Harley was born to Homer and Vivian (Raabe) Flathers at Saint Marys Hospital on Aug. 27, 1931. He was reared on the family farm in rural Fillmore County southeast of Stewartville, attended Dogtown School No. 118, and graduated from Chatfield High School in June 1949. He intended to follow his father into farming but was stricken with polio a month later, which robbed him of the use of his legs. After a lengthy hospitalization at Sister Kenny Institute in Minneapolis and an attempt to co-farm with his father, he was led by what he described as divine guidance to study radio broadcasting at the American Institute of the Air in Minneapolis.

His employment at KAAA radio in Red Wing, Minn., in 1953 was the beginning of a 63-year industry career. An opportunity at KROC radio brought him to Rochester in 1957, and he stayed at the station until 1981. He is particularly remembered for staying on the air round-the-clock during the massive 1978 Rochester flood, broadcasting from KROC's remote transmitter building. He later worked for KWEB and was affiliated with it and sister stations for the rest of his career, through several changes of ownership, different formats and call letter changes. In addition to being well-known for his morning drive time shift, he eventually became equally well-known for selling and producing radio ads.

Harley came to know and understand the community from a unique perspective. His innumerable remote broadcasts — from carpet showrooms to car dealerships; from grocery stores openings to the opening of Methodist Hospital; and from the Olmsted County Fair to the Country Breakfasts on the Farm — enabled him to meet vast numbers of citizens, business leaders, farmers, doctors, and Mayo Clinic visitors. He regularly fulfilled master of ceremonies duties for Rochester Symphony Orchestra concerts, July Fourth band concerts at Silver Lake Park, dairy princess and beauty pageants, Rochester's Summer Music Project and Rochesterfest. 

"HF" had a propensity to interview comedians and musicians during the early and middle years of his career, and he took great pride in interviewing the likes of Jack Benny, Red Skelton, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Guy Lombardo.

He surmounted his physical challenges and strived to help others, actively participating in the March of Dimes, the National Paraplegia Foundation and many other not-for-profit organizations.

And he sold knives and china on the side — sometimes while entertaining clients with his musical saw.

Harley's interest in local history and his ability to tell stories in great detail brought him to the attention of the Post-Bulletin, where for several years he wrote two weekly columns for the paper, recounting personal takes on southeastern Minnesota history ("Back and Forth" on Thursdays) and and on places of worship in the area ("As the Spirit Moves Me" on Saturdays).

He received the Exchange Club's Book of Golden Deeds award in 1966, was simultaneously recognized with WCCO Radio's "Good Neighbor Award" and the Minnesota Handicapped Person of the Year Award in 1977, accepted the Rochester Chamber of Commerce's Ag Person of the Year award in 1996, received the Rotary Club's Paul Harris Award in Chatfield in 1989 and in Rochester in 2006, and was inducted into Minnesota's Pavek Museum of Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2002, among numerous other honors.

Harley met June S. Jury, an exchange nurse from London, England, in Rochester on Christmas Day 1958, and they married nine months later. They shared more than 56 years together, though Alzheimer's has compromised her latest decade. During the pair's international travels, they hosted and guided tours of Spain, Portugal, England, Scotland and Wales. They were active members at Homestead United Methodist Church and later at Christ United Methodist.

Harley is survived by his wife; his children, Edward, of Minneapolis, Jeffrey (Chaoying Sun), of Monterey, Calif., Jane (Gary Nie), of Springfield, Mo., and Emily (Veronica Taylor), of Phoenix, Ariz.; and grandchildren, Kristina Flathers of New York, N.Y., and Ethan and Kirby Nie of Springfield, Mo.

He was preceded in death by his parents and his sister, Elaine.

The family is greatly indebted to Darlene Charland, to the Reflections unit staff at Shorewood Senior Living Campus, to the dedicated nurses and doctors of Mayo Clinic, and to the fellowship of Christ United Methodist Church.

In lieu of flowers, memorials are suggested in Harley's name to the local offices of the of Minnesota and North Dakota, the March of Dimes, the Salvation Army, the Olmsted County History Center, or local not-for-profit organizations of your choice.

Religious Service Information
Christ United Methodist Church
400 5th Ave SW
Rochester, MN 55902
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Published in The Post-Bulletin on Jan. 27, 2016
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