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Cleona May Harman


1920 - 2016 Obituary Condolences
Cleona May Harman Obituary
Cleona May (Opgrand) Harman

May 3, 1920 - December 25, 2016

Passed away peacefully in her sleep on December 25th, 2016 while at home surrounded by family members and caregivers. She died as the result of complications due to Alzheimer's dementia at the age of 96 after suffering from this disease for more than 13 years. May is survived by her husband, Ward; three adult children: Sharon, Lynda and Fredric and his wife Stephanie; two remaining sisters: Goldie and Marjorie from an original family of six children; and four grandchildren: Barton Creeth and his wife Jaime, and Kirsten, Stephen, and Allison Harman. She was preceded in death by her older sister Helen, and by her two younger brothers, Arnold and David.

May was born on the 3rd of May in 1920, in Fargo, North Dakota. The Opgrand family residence was in nearby Halstad, Minnesota. She was proud of her home state of Minnesota and of her Norwegian lineage that was common to that region. Her parents, Olga and Anthon, were first generation U.S. citizens, both with a long lineage of Norwegian ancestry. She graduated as Valedictorian of the Halstad High School Class of 1938. In 1942 she received her BA from Moorhead State Teachers College, majoring in Mathematics and Education. She taught high school mathematics for two years in the Minnesota towns of Hoffman and Sleepy Eye before enlisting in the Army WACS (WWII) in 1944 to be trained as a Physical Therapist. After extensive army training she was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant in 1945 and assigned to a General Hospital unit in Santa Fe, New Mexico where she worked with amputees until she was discharged from the Army in June 1946. She continued to work as a physical therapist in Minneapolis, Minnesota until the fall of 1947. At that time, she used her GI Bill of Rights to attend Stanford University Medical School where she received her Master's Degree in Physical Therapy. After receiving her degree in 1948 she accepted a 6-month assignment with the National Foundation as a physical therapist during the terrifying polio epidemic that took place in Los Angeles in 1948. That was before the discovery of the polio virus and how the disease was transmitted, making it a little frightening to be working with actual patients as they were brought into the county hospital each day.

It was during her time at Stanford University that she met Ward Harman who was working on an advanced degree in Electrical Engineering. They were later married in August 1949. May continued to work as a physical therapist with Cerebral Palsy children until 1951 when she accepted the challenging vocation of raising a family. In the later years of her marriage, after the children had grown, she accepted an additional challenge of studying and passing all of the requirements for becoming a fully licensed Real Estate Broker in the Los Angeles Area. In 1986 both she and her husband Ward retired. They lived in the city of Rancho Palos Verdes, California, where they had been residents since 1975. At the time of her death, they had been married for over 67 years.

May was born prior to the rights of a woman to vote in a national election. She first exercised that right by voting for Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944 (at that time you needed to be at least 21 to vote). She believed in exercising her civil rights and was affiliated with the League of Women Voters. She was active in the Lutheran Church, an accomplished clarinet player, and passed her love for music on to her three children, all of whom are proficient in both piano and instrumental music.

May loved to read and had a special fondness for poetry. She also had a talent for memorizing and would often quote from some of her favorite poetry even while she was in the deep fog of dementia. She was very unselfish, always placing other people's needs and interests ahead of her own. This was especially true with regard to relationships within her extended family.

The Memorial Service is scheduled for 2:00 pm on February 11th at First Lutheran Church in Torrance, her church home and place of worship for much of her later years of life. For anyone desiring to make donations in her memory, the family preference would be that they be directed to First Lutheran Church, 2900 W Carson St, Torrance, California 90503. Please sign the guestbook at www.dailybreeze.com/obits
Published in Daily Breeze on Jan. 7, 2017
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