WATERTOWN, NY — When Harry E. Potter, 91, of 27256 Perch Lake Road, Watertown, passed away on Dec. 21, 2018, the world lost a gentle giant.
Born Sept. 2, 1927, in Caribou, Maine, he was the son of the late George E. and Olive S. Potter.
He spent all of his growing up years in Maine, graduating from Milton LaForest Williams High School in Oakland in 1946, receiving a degree in Agricultural Engineering from the University of Maine at Orono in 1954. Before attending college, he served as he would say proudly for two years, ten months and eight days in the Army Air Corps (Now U.S. Air Force).
Upon graduation from college, he worked as a soil conservationist in Genesee County (Batavia, NY) where he met his wife, Sharon J. Gassman, who was working in an office across the hall. He made many trips to that office in his muddy boots!
They were married on Sept. 8, 1956, at the First Presbyterian Church in Attica, NY with Rev. Donald Buddle officiating. The couple felt blessed to have spent 62 wonderful years together.
In 1956 he was transferred to Berlin, NY to work as a project engineer on the Little Hoosick Watershed. In 1958 he was appointed District Conservationist in Rensselaer County (Troy, NY). He came to Jefferson County as District Conservationist in 1967 where he continued working until his retirement in September 1982.
Harry is survived by his beloved wife, Sharon, that he always referred to as his “first wife!”; a son, Jeffrey and wife, Lynne, of Aurora, IL; a son, Jonathan and partner, Nancy, of Wheatland, WY; a daughter, Ellen and her husband, Edwin of Effingham, NH. Grandchildren Kevin, Justin, Mallory and Matthew Potter, Kelsey and C.J. Layman, Madelyn and Stephen Micek, and three great grandsons Levi and Carter Layman and Jackson Micek and hundreds of friends. He cherished his family and they cherished him. Also surviving are nephews, nieces and cousins.
He was predeceased by his parents, two brothers Arthur and Robert and a sister Ellen Simmons.
Harry was very active in the Brownville United Methodist Church, holding several offices and being Lay Member to Annual Conference for several years.
He belonged to Masonic Lodge #53 in Sidney, ME, but attended Masonic Lodge #53 in Brownville, NY. He was secretary and chairman of the Town of Pamelia Planning Board for many years, chairman of Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District Directors and served on several agricultural boards.
Harry kept a small flock of sheep and was always available to discuss any problems others may have with their flocks. Many classes and groups came to the farm for a tour of the barn, to watch shearing and pet the baby lambs.
He enjoyed a large collection of Marilyn Monroe photos. Gardening, nature, people, traveling and reading were some of his interests. He also loved games, especially cribbage. He especially liked playing with his children, grandchildren and special friend, Glen Snell. Always a very active person, he tobogganed down the family’s back hill until he was 88.
Known as the “Original Harry Potter” after the Harry Potter books came out, he had much fun sharing the same name. Everywhere he went, people commented. He signed autographs, posed for pictures and was on tv.
People were drawn to his gentle, easy-going nature and his New England sense of humor. He was kind to everyone he met. He always saw the good in people. He taught by example. A quote from a friend “It is difficult to adequately convey why Harry is so special, but he has embodied to me that gentle combination of strength, reliability and wonderful humor that any person would be proud to be known for.”
For a man from Maine this New England manifesto is most fitting “The design and virtue of a man’s place of living is a truer measure of his character than the most astonishing of his accomplishments in art or science. For in the making of his home, he builds not for his worldly glory or for the good of strangers but for the satisfaction of himself and those he loves.”
The body was cremated. Calling hours will be held 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 29, at the Johnson Funeral Home in Dexter and a 1:30 p.m. memorial service Sunday, Dec. 30, at Brownville United Methodist Church. A reception will follow at the Brownville American Legion.
Burial will be in Reynolds Hill Cemetery, Sidney, ME at the convenience of the family.
In lieu of flowers memorial gifts may be given to Brownville United Methodist Church, P. O. Box 56, Brownville, NY 13615; Watertown Urban Mission, 247 Factory Street, Watertown. NY 13601 or Hospice of Jefferson County, 1398 Gotham Street, Watertown, NY 13601.
Online condolences may be made to dexterfuneralhome.com.