When Eugene Harmon died recently at age 86, a piece of Centreville history went with him. He lived here nearly all his life and was a deacon of Mount Olive Baptist Church for more than three decades.
"He was a repository or oral history about the early church and community," said the Rev. Eugene Johnson, pastor of Mount Olive. "He'd verify and validate information about the church and gave me a sense of what it was like when the church moved from Old Mill Road to Old Centreville Road."
BUT JUST as important, said Johnson, Harmon was a "kind and thoughtful person, concerned about others, and he did what he could to help them. I've lost a very dedicated person and someone I considered to be a very good friend, and the community has lost a strong, contributing and caring individual."
A resident of Centreville's Mount Olive community, Harmon died April 23 at Inova Fair Oaks Hospital. He'd also been there, for a month before then, in intensive care.
"He had been on dialysis for kidney failure for over two years," said his son Ernest, also of Mount Olive. "And it got to the point where his body just shut down."
Harmon and his wife Maxine, 82, would have been married 65 years this month. He's also survived by three other children, Ralph, Steward and Shirley, all of Mount Olive, six grandchildren and six greatgrandchildren. Son Eugene died of cancer in the late 1970s at age 32.
Harmon started working as a teen-ager and was employed by the federal government for more than 30 years as a machinist with the NSA (National Security Administration), at various locations in the Washington metropolitan area. Then, after retiring around 1995, he worked 13 more years for Fairfax County in the maintenance branch, doing things such as repairing desks and installing glass.
He also raised cattle in then-rural Centreville. "We used to have Angus and white-face cattle, and it was always a chore for us to get them fed and butchered for market," said Ernest. "We had to run them around and lead them into the truck."
BUT THAT'S not all. At the time of his death, Harmon ran a house-rental business out of his home and also sold used furniture and appliances. "Sometimes he had to fix them up," said his son. "He helped a lot of people that way because he sold them very reasonably."
Ernest said his dad even held down another job during vacations from his government duties. "He worked at Fairfax Furniture delivering furniture to make extra money for Christmas," said Ernest. "This is how he provided for the family and made sure we had all the necessary things."
Yet he also found time for his family. "He was a great father and was always kind to us," said Ernest. "As a young man, he'd played baseball, and he'd watch us play sandlot games in the neighborhood. He'd also take us fishing in local lakes and for walks in the woods."
Harmon would catch catfish and hunt for rabbits and squirrels. "Sometimes he'd get a squirrel for breakfast and get it ready for Mom to cook," said Ernest. "We were five children, so you had to catch a few of them to make a meal. He always made sure we had food on the table."
The Harmons were also active in their church and community. Maxine Harmon is a deaconess at Mount Olive Baptist Church and vice president of the Mount Olive Civic Association. Sully District Planning Commissioner Ron Koch knew them both and was saddened at Eugene Harmon's death.
"HE WAS a wonderful man — such a gentleman," said Koch. Describing him as mild-mannered, hardworking and kind, Koch said, "I used to enjoy listening to his stories of Old Centreville. I knew him 20 years, through his wife. She'd call me about different parcels of land to try to protect them from developers, and I'd visit with them in their home."
The Rev. Johnson said those on the Deacon Board thought of Eugene Harmon as a senior statesman and one of the spiritual leaders of the church. "He had that distinguished, statesmanlike presence and personality that demonstrated his spirituality," said Johnson.
"When I moved to Northern Virginia in 1977, he was a deacon I admired," continued the pastor. "I'd been appointed to serve as a deacon at Chantilly Baptist Church. Not knowing one day I'd be pastoring him, he was a senior role model to me as a deacon. And he was very dedicated to service of the church. Even as he was stricken with illness, he did the best he could to carry out his duties."
Johnson officiated at Harmon's funeral, April 30, at the church. Burial was at Stonewall Memory Gardens in Manassas.