Looking them up in the dictionary, milestones are defined as benchmarks and achievements, and legacies are the attributes of special people and the gifts they leave to those that follow. Given that combination, a small photo of Calvin Harbin could be pasted within the dictionary next to those terms.
It was standing room only in the living room at the home of Harbin, in a pre-celebration of his 102nd birthday Monday. His son, Ed, and two daughters, Mary and Ruth, were joined by most of his seven grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. Missing was Dorothy, the love of his life for 66 years, whom he married in 1947 while he was in special military service for his country on seven foreign tours of duty overseas during the war. He rose rapidly in rank to the point of being a colonel before retiring and going into education.
There is not enough space to detail all those accomplishments, but necessary to highlight what he and others have done to benefit the seniors of Ellis County, and which has been spread to all other parts of the state and nation.
Harbin would always point out the credit to those around him that were instrumental in the projects in which he was involved that were specific to seniors. Having worked under the president of Fort Hays State College at the time, John Gustad, Harbin became chairman of the division of education from 1970 to 1972 and dean of faculty of education from1972 to 1977.
It was at that time new attention was brought about to help elderly citizens of that generation. That took him to Washington, D.C., as he lobbied for the attention that should be given to this population. Harbin credits the support of Sen. Bob Dole and Congressman Keith Sebelius for the start of federal appropriations of funding for senior citizen projects. He quotes the words of Dole: “This is a good program and it will live forever.”
On the local front he name-drops his partners in this endeavor to include the other founders of the Hays Senior Center as Leora B. Stroup and Dr. William D. Moreland. With a memory as sharp as a whip, he named other hard-working contributors including Rev. William Miller, Alice Munsch, Dr. Harry Watts an even the courthouse jail cook, Dorothy Curl, and legal guidance freely given by Hays attorney Robert Glassman.
The first Hays Senior Meal Site came from these efforts and a truly great program with headquarters at Fort Hays for a variety of counties known as the Senior Companion Program that provides for visitations by other citizens to those that are home-bound.
Many a patron of the Senior Center would not have this knowledge were it not for board member and secretary now going on a dozen years, Millie Karlin. She kick-started a birthday card shower and a bundle of them were delivered to Harbin on Monday.
Among the treasures of the people in Ellis County that can be found and to have had the pleasure to visit with, Harbin is an uncovered “gem” among us.
Those wishing to send birthday greetings to Calvin can address them to 301 E. 19th, Hays, KS 67601.