Hey, Spike makes a Copper Mountain connection with two men who left lasting impact | SummitDaily.com

Hey, Spike makes a Copper Mountain connection with two men who left lasting impact

Miles F. Porter IV
Life on the Summit

Second homeowners play important roles in Summit County — some much more than others.

Many have residences here in resortland to escape busy lives elsewhere. Some just can't help themselves, becoming significant players wherever they invest.

Two such guys were Gary Harmsen and Bob Root of Omaha, Nebraska. We have to say "were" because both have passed away.

Bob, aka "Cookie," died a couple of years ago and just the other day, it was Gary making his final deal at age 75 after a battle with prostate cancer.

Gary and Bob were genuine Midwesterners — honest, hardworking, devoted to their families and the partnership bonds they created through their residential and commercial investments.

The longtime Copper Mountain homeowners were always enthusiastic supporters of the resort, working hand-in-hand in its development, a process that requires a meshing of corporate and private ownership goals.

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Gary and Bob were good at it. When they were "on campus," you knew.

Attesting to Gary's Copper Mountain impacts, former resort president Harry B. Mosgrove remembers fondly:

"Gary was a very good friend, homeowner and a partner in a RE Investment at Copper. We joined Gary in an investment in 1995 and I have been an active member with him until his recent death. He was more than a business partner as we became very good friends over the years. He had the highest integrity of anyone I was ever involved with. Gary and buddy 'Cookie' became ardent supporters of the goals of Copper Mountain Inc."

Harry also recalls Gary referring to himself unofficially as the "sidewalk superintendent."

"Gary would walk around the resort and give me his official opinion of the progress — or lack of progress — that we were making on the development of Copper Resort," says Harry.

Gary and Bob participated in the annual homeowners weekend with unabashed enthusiasm for our programs, according to Harry, who started with Copper in 1981 and was Copper's president 1987 to 2000 under Tony Novelly and Intrawest's ownership.

Hey, Spike! was there when Gary and Bob rode their loud dirt bikes into the meeting to have their say.

Shortly after graduating from William Penn College in Oskaloosa, Iowa, Gary married his college sweetheart, Betty Jean Frazer, also a native Iowan. Gary later did graduate work in accounting at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Betty became a college math professor.

In 1965, Gary accepted a job with Arthur Anderson & Co. in Omaha, where he became a CPA and was an auditor for several years. Developing an entrepreneurial spirit, combined with financial acumen and a good eye for investments, Gary began a career in real estate, starting with buying and selling FHA repossessed homes and apartment complexes. He then founded Harmsen Enterprises Inc. and Harmsen Management Services, which syndicated and managed residential and commercial properties throughout Omaha.

Gary also had ventures in an ice cream business, a Colorado-condo booking service and a travel agency, the last of which gave him opportunities to travel to such places as the Soviet Union, the Fiji Islands and Australia.

He eventually merged Harmsen Management Services with Mega Corp., which later merged with CB Richard Ellis. When he retired, Gary was vice president at CBRE-Mega.

Gary had been eyeing the beautiful Texas Hill Country for several years, so when he retired in 2007, the Harmsens moved to Horseshoe Bay, Texas. That same year they also started Haiti Share, Inc., a 501(c)(3) charity that provides schooling and leadership training to Haitians.

Gary is survived by his wife of nearly 55 years, Betty Harmsen; his daughter Cheri Huerta, her husband Juan, and their children David, Daniel and Nathan of McAllen, Texas; his daughter Debbie Harmsen of Dallas; his sisters Deanna Harmsen of Horseshoe Bay and Betty Ann Harmsen of Omaha; and his brothers Robert Harmsen of Davenport, Iowa; Richard Harmsen and wife Marjorie of Durant, Iowa; and Calvin Harmsen and wife Patricia of Horseshoe Bay.

A memorial service honoring Gary's life was held April 7 at The Church at Horseshoe Bay.

Gary requested that in lieu of flowers, memorials be given to Haiti Share, Inc. Donations can be given online at HaitiShare.org or sent by mail to Haiti Share, P.O. Box 9208, Horseshoe Bay, Texas, 78657–9208.

In two other sad notes:

• Another longtime Copper Mountain Resort homeowner, Charlotte Ann Courtney of Edmund, Oklahoma, recently died. First owning a small one-bedroom unit in Peregrine, she and husband Mike bought a home in the Masters 10 years ago, later purchasing another adjacent to Tom and Diane Malmgren of Carbonate Real Estate and Property Management.

• The ski world lost Bob Beattie the other day. He coached Dick Malmgren, Tom's brother, at the University of Colorado, and later coached Tom on the U.S. Olympic Team "hopeful squad."

Miles F. Porter IV, nicknamed "Spike," a Coloradan since 1949, is an Army veteran, former hardrock miner, graduate of Adams State College and a local since 1982. An award-winning investigative reporter, he and wife Mary E. Staby owned newspapers here for 20 years. Email your social info to milesfporteriv@aol.com