Cover photo for Mr. James Otis "Jim" Harlan's Obituary
Mr. James Otis "Jim" Harlan Profile Photo
1933 Mr. 2017

Mr. James Otis "Jim" Harlan

June 4, 1933 — September 15, 2017

James Otis Harlan was born at home, in the Sybrant neighborhood south of Bassett, Nebraska, on June 4, 1933, to Margaret and Ora Harlan. Mrs. Stout, a neighbor lady, was the midwife; she had delivered most of his seven older brothers and sisters, and delivered his younger sister three years later. He was born in the Depression years, and although money was scarce, love was not. He grew up in a close and devoted family, which has remained so through the years, although all but two of his siblings have gone on. Jim, (or Otis) as many knew him joined them Friday, September 15, 2017. He passed away at age 84 years, in Faith Regional Hospital, Norfolk, encircled by the love of his family.
Jim's whole existence was involved with ranching. The family moved numerous times as he was growing up, but wherever they lived, the hard work was interspersed with the fun big families generate. Ora played the violin, and when the family was living in, and running, the Sybrant Store and Post Office, they hosted community dances there and everyone came from miles around. His small boyhood involved lengthy walks to whatever country school was closest to where they were living; his Shetland pony, Mickey, on which he took long rambles over the countryside with a friend; trapping in the sloughs and along the lakes there in the Sandhills of southern Rock County. There were always gatherings with the Sybrant, Ammon, and Lanz families, which were all connected, if not by blood, then by common circumstances. He worked in the hayfield and did a man's job from an early age; he milked cows; helped with brandings, both at home and with the neighbors; talked often of experiences stripping blue grass. It was an idyllic childhood, from his point of view. He carried his love of cows and horses; the ranching way of life; and all of nature itself until the end of his life, literally.
He was the first of his family to attend and graduate from high school, he was a part of the Rock County High School class of 1951. He had such fond memories of the homes he stayed in and the other kids who boarded with him. The Korean War was ongoing when Jim received his notice to report for military duty and received his Presidential Greeting on June 26. He was inducted into the United States Army on July 23, 1953 and took his basic training at Ft. Riley, Kansas, During this time, the final truce was signed so Jim was deployed to Bad Kissingen, Germany, where he spent the balance of his time in service, driving an Armored Personnel Carrier to and from guard duty on the Czechoslovakian Border. Some of his favorite memories involved two furloughs to Holland with buddies, his first plane ride, stopovers in Chicago and New York; and touring many large cities in both the Netherlands and Germany. At that time much of what he saw still showed the effects of the bombings of World War II. Jim, rightfully, took enormous pride in having served his country, attaining the rank of Corporal by the time he was discharged May 19, 1955.
When he came home, he went back to helping his parents on the ranch, also hiring out to some of the neighbors as needed. In the early fall of 1956, he and a friend from high school went to western Colorado to pick peaches and apples. Back home again, on November 9, his uncle, Ray Hirsch asked if he could come help fix some corral fences for him. Ray and his wife Irma were boarding the current Sybrant School teacher, Nancy Hart. He stayed for supper, and a chance acquaintance led to courtship and on June 4. 1958, Jim and Nancy were married by a family friend in Clearwater, Nebraska.
They made their first home on the Leahy place, ranching in conjunction with his father and brother Elmer. During the six years they lived there, their four children were born; Kim Doreen, Ward James, Kay Ann and Karen Elaine. Jim was a "hands on" Daddy to his kids, including them in everything he did around the house. Jim was a handy man who made numerous useful items out of wood, finishing them beautifully; he could also fix just about anything mechanical that broke down, or could at least make a shrewd assessment of what he'd need to repair it. In 1965, they went on their own, moving to the Schindler place a mile up the road. It was run down. and the next five years were more or less constant rebuilding, shingling, repairing, painting, plumbing and electrically wiring; along with gardening, haying and all the work that goes with raising cattle with no help, except what little his wife and the kids could provide. He left the place almost 100% better than he found it in 1970, when they moved to their present home north of Bassett, known then as the Hart Ranch.
Jim loved the live creeks, and being close to the river so. He trapped beaver, mink, and muskrat and in deer season, always got the year's supply of venison. He and the kids fished the bayou and put set-lines in the river for catfish. He usually set aside a day in early spring or in the fall when the whole family went rattle snake hunting. Everybody got in on picking wild fruit, and hunting arrowheads. Usually on Father's Day, he'd wake the family early and they'd take a day trip somewhere they wouldn't normally go. The kids loved the trips to hunt rocks, which were brought home and Jim used some for steps into his landscaped sunken garden, and created rock gardens of others. He made water wheels in the, creek, a grape arbor with seats, in which the kids loved to play with their dolls or sit listening to the birds and read a book.
Jim taught himself taxidermy. He mostly did deer heads, but he mounted fish, lots of antlers, a very life-like bobcat, and numerous rattlesnakes. Jim was very interested in the genealogy of the family and put in many hours writing letters in his research to verify stories he'd been told by his grandparents and parents. He wrote a book, which he self-published and gave copies to his kids and grandkids; complete with copies of official documents and pictures, about his recollections of events which happened while he was in service. He called it "Memories of a Cold War Soldier" He also wrote a similar book recording his brother Levi's Army experiences; and most of a book about his memories of growing up in his large, loving family and events and reminiscences of by-gone aunts, uncles and grandparents.
He was a caring rancher, out in all kinds of weather and temperatures seeing to their well-being, and assisting anything that was in need of help. He put up hay, fixed fences, made corrals, all the never-ending chores that go with making a living off the land. He did this in the earlier years with the help of his kids, teaching them by example the rewards a good day's work would bring.
He worked right up to the last week of his life, and wouldn't have wanted it any other way. Jim was preceded in death by his daughter Karen Jeffs, great-granddaughter, Arabella Potter; his parents, Ora and Margaret Harlan; brothers, Calvin, Elmer, Levi, and their wives; sisters, Esther Burgett Weber and Neva Bussinger Zillig and their husbands and Helen Schwager. Three nephews and a niece also preceded him. He leaves to mourn him his wife of fifty-nine years. Nancy; son Ward Harlan; daughters Kim (Aby) Tehranipour and Kay (James) Geschwender; Grandchildren: Misti (Jeff) Potter, Cassandra (Josh) Bravo, Douglas Harlan, Sarah (Dan) Aldrich, Yasamin Tehranipour, Daniel, Kelly and Laura Geschwender, Great- grandchildren: Kesleigh and Ryland Potter, Brianna, McKenzie, Colton, Conner and Braxton Bravo, and Hunter Harlan. He is also survived by two sisters, Violet $ulliven and Alta Simons; and a brother-in-law, Elmer Schwager, and many nieces and nephews.
Funeral Services were held on Friday at the United Methodist Church in Bassett, Nebraska with Pastor Michelle Byerly and Pastor Dennis Quigley officiating the service. Music was provided by JoAnn Swanson playing a medley of songs. A trumpet CD rendition of "In The Garden" by Jerry Neeman was also provided. Pall bearers were, Dale Sybrant, Bill Sybrant, Arlo Sybrant, Allen Sybrant, Steve Sybrant, and Dave Sybrant. Honorary bearers were the family that Jim loved, and all the good friends he made in his lifetime. Military Honors were presented by the Bassett American Legion Post #123. Cremation was to take place following the service. A private family inurnment will occur at a later date at the family ranch northeast of Bassett. Hoch Funeral Home of Bassett was in charge of the arrangements.
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