David Harshbarger

David Dwight Harshbarger

1938 - 2020

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Obituary of David Dwight Harshbarger

David Dwight Harshbarger, 82, passed away on December 5, 2020, in the comfort of his home in Morgantown surrounded by loved ones. He kept his wit and humor until the end. Born in Milton W.Va. in Cabell County on February 1, 1938, Dwight grew up in a closely-knit community. He wrote that his life in "Appalachia included nourishment by a first basic language and dialect that accompanied my learning. A sense of place, an unshakable geographic identity. It has never left me, even though at times I chose to leave it. But my departures were always temporary. That language formed the permanent core of my sense of self, my identity, one built on a foundation of the syllables of people of the Appalachian Mountains, a language with the permanence of geologic strata. Through education, professional life, urban living, and world travels, I developed a new second language that overlaid my Appalachian roots." Dwight was preceded in death by his parents, George and Olivia Stephens Harshbarger, and his brother James. He is survived by his children David (wife Colleen) of Morgantown, and Amy (husband Nathaniel Gove) of Princeton, Mass., his grandchildren Eric and Brynn Harshbarger in W.Va., and Bethany and Tucker Gove in Mass., his half-sister The Rev. Sandra Kline Mortimer (spouse Ginger Mortimer O'Connell) of Martinsburg, his partner Betsy Pyle of Morgantown, and a large network of good friends both near and far. Following graduation from Milton High School in 1955, he enrolled at West Virginia University, where he earned Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Psychology in 1960 and 1961. As a student he participated in the US Army ROTC program. He began his PhD program in Psychology at the University of California – Berkeley before the US Army called him to active duty in North Dakota. After an honorable discharge from the Army, he completed his PhD in Psychology at the University of North Dakota in 1969 while teaching at Moorhead State University in Minnesota. He also completed a post-doctoral training program at Harvard University in Community Psychiatry before returning to West Virginia University to join the Department of Psychology faculty in 1970. Dwight's work in Psychology spanned subfields including clinical psychology, mental health, and applied behavioral analysis. He also employed his skills working as the director of a mental health council in Beckley, and as a management consultant, ultimately accepting positions as a Vice President first for Sealy Inc. in Chicago, and later for Reebok near Boston. Dwight concluded his career in Psychology at the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies in Mass., serving as its Executive Director from 2001-2008. Dwight had strong interests in improving behavioral safety practices in industrial settings, and worked with colleagues to create the Commission on Accreditation for Behavioral Safety through the Cambridge Center to recognize outstanding efforts in industrial safety practices. He earned numerous awards and distinctions for his professional work over the course of his long career. In 2008 he returned to the familiarity of Morgantown to enjoy retirement near his son's family and pursue his growing interest in creative writing. In addition to writing, he also taught classes in the WVU School of Public Health as an Adjunct Professor and continued to work with the Commission on Accreditation for Behavioral Safety. He published four works of historical fiction. Two of his novels focused on industrial safety failures in West Virginia - Witness at Hawks Nest about tunneling through Gauley Mountain to divert the New River for hydropower (resulting in the most deaths as a result of industrial disaster in U.S. history), and Valley at Risk: Shelter in Place about a chemical spill in the Kanawha River Valley. His first novel, In the Heart of the Hills: A Novel in Stories, relates tales of growing up in a small town during WWII and observing the community change with the construction of the interstate highway. For the past six years he devoted his life to his final book, A Quiet Hero: A Novel of Resistance in WWII France, carefully researching the French Resistance movement to the German occupation of France during WWII. Dwight told the true story of clandestine work by French Gen. Rene Carmille. His expertise in machine processed data (computer programming) allowed him to aid the Resistance movement by hacking the Nazi-ordered census of Jews to prevent their roundup, providing false identification cards to Resistance members, and aiding the mobilization of troops for Operation Torch in North Africa. He worked closely with the grandchildren of Gen. Carmille, meeting with them in Paris and Lyon on three occasions to collaborate on his novel, most recently in November 2019. In addition to his love of literature and creative writing, Dwight also enjoyed a long running career, training for and competing in marathons in Boston, NYC, Washington DC and elsewhere. He traveled widely in the US and the world for work and pleasure, always with a strong interest in the varied local cultures. His love of the arts was broad, enjoying all forms of expression but especially jazz and orchestral music. When a person like Dwight Harshbarger dies, it's as if a library containing valuable collections has been burned. Dwight participated in the Morgantown Buddhist Group and requested a Buddhist service following his passing. Honoring his wishes, his body has been entrusted to Hastings Funeral Home for cremation. A more formal celebration of his life will be conducted in the spring and announced in this newspaper. His ashes will be returned to the family plot in the Milton cemetery and the Hawks Nest Memorial which meant so much to him. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to either of the two non-profits: The Green Mountain Writers Conference for emerging writers who are dedicated to using their craft to shed light on overlooked truths. Donations should be sent to the Green Mountain Writers Conference in care of Yvonne Daley, 47 Hazel Street, Rutland, VT 05701. Or The Nicholas Chronicle, Nicholas Historical and Genealogical Society (Hawks Nest Memorial maintenance) 718 Broad Street, Summersville WV 26651. Online condolences can be made at www.hastingsfuneralhome.com