Author’s note: Given a choice of writing an autobiography/self reflection essay or a biography for my nonfiction class, I decided I wanted to write about someone else other than myself. I chose my great grandfather, because I knew it would mean a lot to my family, and with being in contact with my aunt Donna Huntoon and grandmother Sue Huntoon as well as her then fiancé (now husband) Lance Ford, I was able to paint a picture of what he was like in life as well as the impression he left.
It was important to me to give back to the people who have been constant supporters throughout my life. And with my grandmother and Lance in the process of renovating the house that Harold built, I thought we could frame the story and hang it when they’re done.
Harold Huntoon was a good man. That’s the answer I received whenever I asked who he was or what he was like. He stood 5’7″ with light blue eyes. My great-grandfather was a good father, a good husband, and a hard worker.
Born August 25, 1911, in the Franklin/Andover area of New Hampshire. A young Harold grew up in Andover with his brother Joe and sisters Bernice, Doris, and Mildred. He went to school at Proctor Academy but dropped out a month before his graduation for an opportunity for work.
Harold went to work on the railroad with his brother for years up until the day when he was cutting grass next to the tracks and stepped on a hornets nest causing the hive to attack him, swarming him, which taxed his heart leaving permanent damage. He was going to join the Navy but he was declined because of his heart complications.
When he couldn’t get a job in the Navy, he found work at a feed mill mixing feed and loading the bags onto trucks. Lance Ford, who grew up in the area, remembers stopping at the mill one day when he was young and Harold was working. In Lance’s words, “Harold tolerated the Ford boys.”
Lance remarked “Harold didn’t talk much,” and shared a story about how Harold mixed feed at the mill: “l asked him how many scoops of grain he added, and he said ‘One,’ and then I asked how many scoops of the other stuff he added, and he said ‘Two.’ Then I asked him how he knew how much to add, and he pointed to a paper with the amounts, and I asked him who made it, and he said ‘I did.’ It was always one or two word answers.”
Harold met his wife, Doris Stevens, not far from the mill in Andover at a place called Potter Place Inn. They married on Halloween in 1947 surrounded only by a small gathering of close family and friends.
Soon after marrying his wife they had their first child, my grandmother. Susan Karol Huntoon born on January 9, 1948. She was a little blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl who was well loved by her father and mother. She recalls her father as a kind and gentle man.
Roughly two years later on October 20, 1950 they had another daughter, Donna Huntoon. They (Harold, Doris, Susan, Donna, and Harold’s parents) lived in the house built by Harold and his father on a hill, with just enough land for his cow and garden.
Harold found he needed a barn for his cows, and instead of building a barn he found a railroad storage structure for sale which he purchased for $50. Harold only made $30 a week, so this was expensive at the time.
Harold repurposed the old storage and shelter for a barn so that he could keep the cow. He and his wife Doris also had a garden which Harold tended to daily. They would preserve the produce for the winter by canning and pickling it. They rarely went to the store to purchase anything, and his daughter, Donna, stated they really only went to the store to buy toilet paper.
Harold was a selfless man who prioritized others before himself, working hard to ensure his family had everything they needed. One example of his character was how he traveled every Sunday on his only day off to visit his mother-in-law because her husband had passed. That was just who he was. He was a family man.
He enjoyed spending time with his daughters, whether it was having them with him in the barn while he was milking the cows or taking them fishing. The only thing my great-grandfather loved more than being outdoors was his family. He loved to hunt and fish with his brother Joe and would jump at the opportunity.
In addition to being a hard worker, he was a very kind and gentle man who spoke little but left a lasting impression. Even though I never knew my great-grandfather, I’ve come to know him through my grandmother and aunt, which is how I know that many of the same characteristics that my great-grandfather possessed have been passed down throughout my family.
I’m very lucky to have the family I do because despite all of the hardship laid upon us we are close, and I’d just like to thank my great-grandfather because it was his kindness passed down that made this family so special.
Harold died suddenly from a massive heart attack on May 18, 1968 at 58 years old. His wife Doris never remarried, and my grandmother recalls her saying that “l was married to a good man, and I’ll never find another like him.”