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Harlan Porter Durand (1917-2014), formerly of Cincinnati, Ohio, died peacefully in Everett, Washington on March 16, 2014 at the age of 96.

Harlan was born in Cheshire, Connecticut to Dexter and Olive Storrs Durand. His extended family played the vaudeville circuit as The Five Durands. Harlan continued this heritage through barbershop and his skill in playing the standard show tunes on the piano by ear. He was heard in the community as a member of the Senior Swingers of Edmonds, and the Silver Tones of Everett.

As a boy, Harlan roamed the woods and commuted daily ten miles to high school by trolley. His first job was as a delivery boy to a butcher. He attended a business school until he earned enough money to enroll at the University of Rochester. He was graduated with a degree in Business Administration. Harlan’s first ‘real’ job was with the U.S. Office of Price Administration, an experience that allowed him to regale others with his stories of surveying small businesses in Manhattan. He went on to work in a wartime rocket research program at George Washington University. That’s where he met Rita; a summer romance blossomed into a happy marriage of almost 70 years.

At the close of World War II, Harlan returned to school to study engineering. He chose the UW as it meant an adventurous trip by car across the country. He received his master’s degree in aeronautical engineering in 1949. Then commenced Harlan’s long career with General Electric, first in Lynn, Massachusetts then in Cincinnati. Harlan specialized in the mathematical study of the physics of air flow in jet engines. A thrifty person by nature, Harlan used his old computer punch cards as treasured notepaper for thirty more years.

Harlan and Rita retired in the mid-80’s and moved to Everett in 1989. Their active retirement was filled with Elderhostel trips, bicycling, Sierra Club hikes, and volunteering.

Harlan will be remembered as a cheerful, steady and responsible man who never lost his perspective and sense of humor. He had a brilliant technical mind, loved puzzles, and continued to tackle complex mathematical concepts into his mid-eighties. He remained a faithful reader of The Economist and The New Yorker until his death.

Harlan is survived by his wife Rita, his daughter Nancy Robblee (Dick), his sons Dick (Karen) and Jim (Wendy), and grandchildren Nicole Fischbach and Ashley Durand, Michael and Laura Durand, and Betsy and Megan Robblee.

A celebration of Harlan’s life will be held at a later date.


Judy Gensmer
Posted June 9, 2014 at 1:05 pm
Because we have good friends who live in Everett, I discovered the notice and fine article about Harlan. I met Rita when I was a much younger person working at the Cincinnati Children’s Home. She and Harlan were such great role models of citizenship and adventure. Harlan was so committed to his barbershop quartet. When they moved to WA I didn’t realize that we already had good friends there.
Judy Gensmer, North Oaks, MN

Judy Gensmer
Posted June 9, 2014 at 1:09 pm
As a younger person working at the I met Rita and Harlan. He loved his quartet group and was very committed to performance. After all of these years I remember fondly how energetic and thoughtful they were. Now I realize after all this time that we have other good friends in Everett. That is how I discovered the notice about Harlan. Warmest regards to Rita, Judy Gensmer, North Oaks, MN

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