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Henry Harsch

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HARSCH, Henry DR. HENRY HARSCH Dr. Henry Harsch was a prominent Atlanta psychologist who worked in the field for over 50 years. He was the first to receive a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Georgia and the seventh licensed psychologist in the state. He believed that mental health was an important aspect of public health and pushed for the issue to be addressed more openly in public. He vocally supported Civil Rights, Women's rights, and human rights for all. Henry was born in 1921 in Norfolk, Nebraska, the second of four sons, in a family hard-hit by the Dust Bowl and Depression. He grew up on a farm without indoor plumbing or electricity and attended a one room schoolhouse. He volunteered for the Navy in 1942. He was selected for the naval aviation officer training program and sent to the University of Oklahoma to study engineering, the first person in his family to attend college. After the war, his brother and he drove their Model A Ford to Los Angeles to look for work to help their family. Henry landed a job as an engineer at an aircraft factory in Santa Monica, and in the evenings, to earn extra money, Henry called square dances at venues around LA. It was at a square dance that Henry met Jean Mackie, who had moved to LA from Birmingham, Alabama after college. And so began the first step of a sixty year duet. They married in 1950 and, in 1952, had their first of six children. Using the GI Bill, Henry enrolled at the University of Southern California to finish his engineering degree. Riding up in the elevator one day to see his adviser, he realized that he was more interested in the minds of the people next to him than in the mechanics of the elevator -- and switched to a psychology major. He completed a Master's in Psychology at USC. His years in Los Angeles had a profound impact on him. He carried the Californian sense of freedom and personal expression into his long professional life in the South, hoping to help people to feel comfortable with themselves aand lead a more satisfying and productive life. After several years of graduate study in Kansas toward a Ph.D., Henry moved with Jean and his growing family to Decatur, Georgia in 1957, and he began work at the Child Guidance Clinic of Dekalb County. In 1962, he entered the new clinical psychology program at the University of Georgia. Having already completed his coursework in Kansas, he received his Ph.D. a year later. After having worked at the Milledgeville State Hospital and for the state's juvenile prison system, Henry established a private practice in 1966. Soon, Henry and Jean moved into practice together. He saw clients at their office, An Open Space, Ltd., until 2006. Henry was active in the development of psychotherapy in Atlanta. He was a mentor to many psychotherapists. He brought national figures in the field and new techniques and treatments to Atlanta. He taught in the psychology department at Georgia State for several years. He testified at hearings held by the Georgia legislature to force insurance companies to cover treatment by psychologists. He had a weekly spot on the WSB-TV morning show Today in Georgia for several years in the late sixties, on which he discussed issues dealing with psychology and parenting. In 1969, Henry and Jean, now the parents of six children, bought a large house on four acres of land in Druid Hills. Henry converted a horse pasture behind the house into a soccer field for his children's soccer teams to practice on. Local area soccer teams continued to use the field after his children had stopped playing in youth soccer leagues. The doors of their home were always open (literally) -- family and friends and neighbors were continually coming and going. Nothing was more important to Henry than being a husband and a father and a grandfather. He supported his wife in starting her own career. He had a private phone line installed in their offices, so his kids could call and reach their parents at any time. For his grandchildren, he built a small theater and climbing wall in the basement of his house. Henry loved his and all children for their sense of fun and adventure, and, in fact, he strongly believed an infusion of childhood fun could enhance adult mental health. Throughout his life, Henry never lost his commitment to facilitating the growth and development of all that entered his world - be it personal or professional. During three years of a difficult illness, he kept his essence -- his lovingness, his patience, his ability to listen, his sense of humor, his joy of life. Dr. Henry Harsch, 88, died peacefully at his home in Decatur, Georgia on Saturday, October 31, 2009. He will be sorely missed. Henry is survived by his wife Jean, his six children, Donna, Alan, John, Cecily, Douglas, and Richard, and by his fourteen grandchildren, Wesley, Jamison, Max, Nally, Archie, Rosa, Jackson, Will, Lily, Owen, Jadan, Trey, Alex, and Nick. In lieu of flowers, you are welcome to make a donation to Hospice Atlanta, Clifton Sanctuary Ministries for Homeless Men, or any organization committed to serving people whose work is close to your heart. A celebration of Henry's life will be held at the Unitarian Church at Cliff Valley Way on Sunday, November 29 at 4 pm. All, including children, are welcome.
Published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Nov. 8, 2009
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