Melvin Lee Harmon


Melvin Lee Harmon, 86, of Mesa, Arizona, passed away peacefully in Hospice Care on June 13, 2024. He battled prostate cancer 24 years ago and became cancer-free. Unfortunately, in the last year of his life, he struggled with the long-term effects of that battle, and cancer returned. We were so fortunate to have had him these last 24 years and are mindful that we could have lost him in 2000. He was incredibly strong and fought hard to stay with us as long as he did.

Mel was born on November 4, 1937, to Ronald and Doris Harmon in Spirit Lake, IA. He had five siblings, and they remained incredibly close throughout their lives. The endearing stories he told of his siblings and their adventures through good and tough times were the hallmarks of our family gatherings.

We loved hearing every one of them, no matter how many times they were told. For years, the siblings and their spouses traveled, vacationed, and spent as much time together as they could until age and health started to get in the way. Some of our fondest memories are of family gatherings, especially fish fries, a favorite activity as Mel and his siblings were raised fishing by their mother.

The remaining members of that clan are Marilyn (Harmon) Kreisel, who lost her husband Dick in 2019; Dean Harmon, who lost his wife Jan in 2015; Virgil Madison, who lost his wife Marlene (Harmon) Madison in 2020; Larry and Colleen Harmon; and Mel’s wife Joan. Mel’s youngest sister, Karen (Harmon) Brown, passed away in 2000, and her husband Ronald Brown passed in 2006.

Mel married his beloved wife Joan (Montgomery) Harmon on October 19, 1963 in Cherokee. They met through his youngest sister, Karen, who was in the same grade as Joan. They dated until Joan graduated high school and they married the year after. Mel and Joan shared countless adventures throughout their 60-year marriage, fueled by Mel’s love of road trips.

Their journeys often centered around family gatherings, reunions, and seeing the country, creating a lifetime of memories. Together they had two children, Lee Michael Harmon (57) and Lauri Jo (Harmon) Erickson (53).

Dad had many jobs growing up, but one of his favorites was working for his Uncle Gerald at his body shop in Estherville, IA. He had countless stories about building and repairing custom cars, taking immense pride in each one. Known for his knack for fixing up cars and trading them for newer models, he always had a project in the works.

After moving to Cherokee to be with Joan in 1962, he joined the family business, Harmon Heating and Cooling, and worked there until 1985. Then, Mom and Dad decided to embark on a new adventure and moved to Arizona, where Dad became a respected sheet metal foreman for the remainder of his career.

Outside of work, Dad devoted himself to remodeling and expanding our childhood home on the acreage outside of Cherokee. He had a passion for building and creating. Whether it was adding onto houses, crafting furniture, or bringing his family’s creative ideas to life, Dad had a remarkable talent for constructing just about anything. All who knew him admired his craftsmanship and dedication to his projects.

Lee Harmon of Austin, TX, and Lauri Erickson of Chandler, AZ were incredibly fortunate to have him as a dad. He embraced fatherhood with unwavering dedication, ensuring they were always provided for, even during the toughest times. His pride in them was immense, celebrating every achievement from their sports victories to their college graduations and career milestones. His face would light up with joy and pride whenever they walked into a room.

Lauri married Todd Erickson, and throughout their 20 years of marriage, Dad formed a deep bond with Todd, whom he considered one of his best friends. Although Lee's wife Maureen had a more recent relationship with Dad, he loved her just the same.

His granddaughters were the lights of his life. Cassandra Lee Harmon (24), his first grandchild, was cherished and adored, often seen being toted around by him as if she were the most precious thing in the world.

When Caitlyn Kim Harmon (22) came along, Lee and his family were getting transferred in his career, but nothing could stop my parents from traveling to see their granddaughters several times a year. Then Taylor Lynn Erickson (19) arrived to round out the trio. Grandpa played a significant role in Taylor's upbringing and he never missed any of her events, particularly growing to love her sand volleyball career.

As Grandpa got older, the tables turned and Taylor was there for him through some of his hardest times. His love and dedication to his family were unwavering and profound.

We will be holding a Celebration of Life for Dad on July 20th. More details about the service will be shared in the coming weeks. The burial will be a private family event. If you'd like to send cards and memories, please send them to Lauri Erickson at 4623 W. Buffalo St., Chandler, AZ. We would love to include them in the Celebration of Life.