Throngs pay respects to Tom Harty, killed in home invasion

  • Hundreds of friends and family members of the late Thomas Harty turned out to an open house celebration of Harty's life held Saturday afternoon at Hartman's Herb Farm in Barre. RECORDER STAFF/SHELBY ASHLINE

  • Hundreds of friends and family members of the late Thomas Harty turned out to an open house celebration of Harty's life held Saturday afternoon at Hartman's Herb Farm in Barre. RECORDER STAFF/SHELBY ASHLINE

  • THOMAS HARTY

For the Gazette
Published: 11/13/2016 10:33:21 PM

BARRE — Tears welled up in Henry Culver’s eyes as he thought back 50 years, to the day he first met Thomas Harty.

“He was my Boy Scout leader,” Culver remembered. Having lost his father at a young age, Culver developed a great bond with the scoutmaster of Troop 40 in Orange.

“For many years, Tom Harty was a very positive male role model for me,” he said. “I credit him for a lot of my accomplishments.”

Together, Harty, Culver and the other Boy Scouts went on many a cross-country trip, including Washington, D.C., and Yellowstone National Park. The memories Culver developed with Harty even led him to become a scoutmaster himself, so other children could have the same kind of experience.

“His capacity to care about people, his joie de vivre … he conveyed it to so many people,” said Culver, of Holden.

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, throngs of people turned out to Hartman’s Herb Farm at 1026 Old Dana Road for an open house celebration of Harty’s life. A line of people streamed out the doors of the function room, the perimeter of which was surrounded by photos of Harty and his late wife, Joanna Fisher.

Harty, 95, was killed during an Oct. 5 home invasion at his Orange home, which he shared with Fisher. She died Thursday morning at UMass Memorial Medical Center due to complications from the injuries she suffered during the attack by two alleged drug addicts. Harty and Fisher, who used a wheelchair, were assaulted with a knife and left by the home invaders who stole the couple’s car, according to earlier reports.

Joshua Hart, 23, and Brittany Smith, 27, both of Athol, have been charged with the crimes.

“I don’t know how anybody could do this to anybody, but especially not to them,” Pete Marcoux of Cummington said.

Marcoux said he had known Harty for 25 years and, like many of those at the open house celebration, had been a customer at Harty’s business, Donbeck Sales, where Harty sold nuts, bolts and tools.

“Tom was the toolman,” said George Sturtevant of Chesterfield while waiting in line with Marcoux.

Marcoux remembered Harty as a happy-go-lucky man who didn’t care if someone in his store made a purchase or not.

“He just wanted you to come for the conversation,” Marcoux said.

Others, like Sonja Olbert of Athol, hadn’t known Harty for long, but were struck by his warm and caring personality.

“He was like a grandpa to everybody, and a dad,” she said.

Olbert had been one of Fisher’s caregivers, and met Harty about two years ago. Olbert, who enjoys hiking, found she and Harty had that in common. Harty regularly climbed Mount Monadnock and Mount Greylock, hiked to the Grand Canyon’s Phantom Ranch and back to the rim twice a year, climbed all the 4,000-foot peaks in New England, walked the length of the Long Trail from the Canadian border to North Adams and completed the Appalachian Trail, according to his obituary.

“He was a very sweet guy and welcomed me into the hiking family he had,” she said.

Leo O’Keefe, who knew Harty for 40 years, noted that the hundreds of people who attended the open house celebration and who spoke about their memories of Harty was a great testament to his character.

“Look how many people are here,” he said. “People have come from all parts of the state.”

Harty, O’Keefe feels, leaves behind an unforgettable memory.

“People are going to think of his wife and himself as some of the best people in our area,” he said.


http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/recorder/obituary.aspx?pid=181841231


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