Harlan ‘Harl’ E. Renner, 85
Surrounded by loved ones, Harlan passed away on Feb. 7, 2019, at Hospice of North Idaho Schneidmiller House. He was born to Frank B. and Edith (Lorenz) Renner on Aug. 16, 1933, in Miller, S.D. In 1936, the family decided to head West due to the extreme drought conditions in the Midwest, and found a new home in Idaho. They first settled on the Harrison Flats, but soon bought a farm at Carlin Bay on Lake Coeur d’Alene, where he and his brother, Wendell, grew up.
A son, brother, uncle, husband, father, grandfather and friend were roles Harlan embraced with hard work, honesty, humor and love. His early years were spent outdoors as much as possible, riding his horse, Patches and hunting and fishing — with his dog, Doug, following him everywhere. He even had a pet white-tailed deer. It was the deer who taught him the hard lesson that life is not always fair when a hunter shot his beloved pet during hunting season. Living on a farm there were many chores to do — planting, haying, chopping wood and milking the cows twice each day were all things he would take into his adult life.
Harl started school just a short distance from home at Upper Carlin School until he enrolled in Harrison Elementary as a sixth-grader. Shy in nature, he didn’t spend much time talking, but was always ready to play a joke on someone. Later in life, his telling of his pranks kept folks laughing. Friends and family loved to listen to his stories when they gathered for holidays and special occasions.
When Harl was just 14 years old, fate dealt a cruel blow when his father was killed in an accident while working for the Idaho State Highway Department. His brother, Wendell, was getting married and moving to Washington state, so Harl dropped out of school (he didn’t much like it anyway) to help his mother with the farm and expenses. He applied for a job at the Russell and Pugh Lumber Mill, but was told he had to be 16 to work in the sawmill. However, like a bad penny, he just kept on asking for a job until finally the foreman asked him if he could swim and gave him a job on the mill pond feeding logs into the mill at age 15. That job shaped his entire working career, as it was spent on the water, except a short period from 1955 to 1958.
Harl’s shift at the mill ended at 4 p.m. and he soon began to notice a tall, blonde girl getting off the school bus at about the same time. It took time for him to find the courage to ask her for a date, but there must have been some magic in the air, as on Aug. 1, 1954, he and Barbara Smith were married and shared almost 65 years together. He always said they were married for 68 years as he counted the dating years. A hospice nurse asked Harl what the secret was to such a long marriage and he replied, “just keep saying I do!”
The newlyweds moved to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, in January of 1955, where Harl went to work for Kennedy Buick until 1958, when the business declared bankruptcy. He didn’t even miss an hour without a job, for on Monday he went to Potlatch Forest looking for work, where he was told they didn’t have any openings. So, he went to Atlas Tie, where they put him to work on the spot. Later in the day, Potlatch called offering him a job on night shift, so he worked two jobs until Potlatch offered him a day shift, so he had to make a choice. In his working career Harl only missed two days of work with the mumps (he actually went to work but the crew chased him home as they did not want the mumps).
Wanting some land and a bigger house, Harl, Barb and daughters, Bobbi and Karen moved to Dalton Gardens, Idaho, in 1960. Due to finances, the property they bought didn’t meet Barb’s “dream home” expectations, but she agreed to two years there — no more. 59 years later they are still there! Harl loved to garden and was excited to have a place for his beloved animals. He raised a big garden, bought a cow and sold milk to 16 customers, plus he kept two horses for the family to ride. He was so proud of the blue ribbons his potatoes won every year at the fair.
Never one to be idle, Harl would seek opportunities to supplement his income with weekend and evening jobs. For seven years he worked on the historic Clearwater Log Drive held each spring. When horse racing was introduced at the fairgrounds, he was a valet, saddling horses and loading them in the starting gate. Both of these jobs created more great tales that would be repeated many times during his life. Most of his working career was spent on a tugboat, transporting logs from the St. Joe River to the mills in Coeur d’Alene, living on a tug Monday through Friday.
Harl was very supportive of Barb’s endeavors in business. They were part owners of many restaurants, including The Iron Horse and Arrow Point Resort. In 1985, when Barb became manager of the fairgrounds, he spent many hours helping her fulfill the dream of a bigger fair, year-around use and landscaped grounds. The Fourth of July holiday, he could be seen every morning picking up cigarette butts on the beach at Arrow Point to present a clean, welcoming site to customers.
In 1976, the Renners purchased land at the McPherson Ranch at the confluence of Teepee Creek and the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River, where they built a cabin. When Harl retired, this retreat filled his heart with joy as he trimmed trees, removed brush, mowed the fields, chopped wood, filled bird feeders, gathered rock to build flower beds, controlled the gopher population and sat on the front porch watching wildlife, hummingbirds and the beauty of the landscape. Everyone who visited was in awe of his filled wood boxes and especially the quality of his cedar kindling. He liked to be warm, so it didn’t take much of a chill for him to build a fire in the woodstove.
The Seattle Mariners and the Gonzaga Bulldogs had a great fan in Harl. He loved to play pinochle, especially with friends Rodney and Pam Waller, with Pam as his partner. His multitude of friends will greatly miss his stories, those sparkly blue eyes and his kindness.
Although Harl’s 85 years brought much happiness in the life he shared with family and friends, there was also great sadness. Losing his father at such a young age and his son, Bruce, shortly after his birth, left a hole in his heart. But the death of both of his daughters (Bobbi in 2007 to COPD and Karen in 2015 from pancreatic cancer) brought tears whenever they were mentioned and a sorrowful heart.
With Barb by his side, he has enjoyed the many weeks spent at the cabin, maintaining their home in Dalton, the trips they have taken and his helping hand with the cooking, dishes and household chores. He was the best husband a girl could ask for — he made my life complete — my love.
Survivors include his wife, Barbara; two nephews, Harvey (Janet) Renner and Glen (Liz) Renner; three step-grandchildren: Kalum and Mac McPhedran and Jessica Lohstreter; sister-in-law, Jo Renner; two nieces: Stacy Ridgley and Kelly Johnston, and his very special brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Willis and Alta Smith.
No services will be held at Harl’s request. There will be a celebration of life in early spring at a time and location to be determined. Special thanks to the staff at Schneidmiller Hospice House for their comfort and caring during Harl’s last days. Memorial gifts can be made to Hospice of North Idaho Schneidmiller House or the North Idaho Fair and Rodeo Foundation, P.O. Box 1337, Hayden, ID 83835.
Yates Funeral Homes has been entrusted with arrangements and you may visit Harl’s online memorial and sign his guest book at www.yatesfunealhomes.com.