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Columbia Missourian

Harmon W. Fansler Jr. had thirst for information

By Hannah Cushman
January 30, 2012 | 12:57 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Harmon W. Fansler Jr. perched his son Kevin Fansler on his lap as they motored down the highway before his feet could even reach the pedals.

"He'd pretend that (I) had control of the car," Kevin Fansler said.

When he grew enough to fit into the driver's seat, Kevin Fansler recalls driving at a crawl along Idaho logging routes as his father coached him on shifting gears. "He was always, always trying to pass on knowledge." 

Harmon W. Fansler Jr. of Columbia died Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012, at University Hospital. He was 87.

Mr. Fansler was an individual full of information. His daughter Debbie McWhirter said he could identify a specific tree from 50 yards away and knew exactly what crop was in every field that lined the highway.

For all his knowledge, though, Mr. Fansler could never quench his thirst for more. Citing his father's avid interest in Zane Grey novels and the stories of Nazarene missionaries, Kevin Fansler said Mr. Fansler was fascinated by other cultures — but one in particular held his rapt attention.

"If there was any money in cowboying, I think he definitely would have done that," Kevin Fansler said.

While his days were not spent in the saddle, Mr. Fansler was something of a contemporary cowboy: He was born Dec. 8, 1924, to Harmon W. Fansler and Grace Huff Fansler on a family homestead near Karval, Colo.where he endured dust storms, cricket infestations and nine siblings.

He married June Kiser in 1950. The couple purchased and briefly operated a farm in West Plains before moving to Idaho. In the years that followed, Mr. Fansler established a prolific resume, including army service, logging, heavy equipment operation, automotive mechanics and truck driving.

Mr. Fansler and his wife retired to Columbia in 2007.

Once there, Mr. Fansler exchanged his love of the road with love of another sort.

"He was always a terrible flirt with the women at the senior center," Kevin Fansler said, laughing.

Mr. Fansler is survived by his wife; six children, Debbie McWhirter of Ingleside, Texas, Letha Albright of Columbia, Pam Fansler of Pueblo, Colo., Kathy Fansler of Columbia, Harmon Fansler of Long Beach, Calif., and Kevin Fansler of Seattle; a sister, Marie Brown, of Clackamas, Ore.; five grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Private services will be at a later date.

Memorial donations can be made to the mission fund at the Evangelical Free Church, 600 Silvey St., Columbia, MO 65203, or to the Columbia Area Senior Center, 1121 Business Loop 70 E., Columbia, MO 65201.

Condolences can be posted online at