FAYETTE, Ohio - Harvey Lee Potter, 69, a onetime Alaska fisherman who enjoyed tinkering with his tractors, died Friday at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center after a bout with liver disease.
Friends and family called Mr. Potter "Putter Potter" for his interest in tractors. He had five tractors, which he used to manage an oversized garden that produced fruits and vegetables for his neighbors.
Sharing his fresh crops was natural for Mr. Potter, who his wife said treasured family over all else and was known for welcoming friends for meals or a game of cards.
DeAnn Potter, whom he married more than 41 years ago, said her husband would tell her about his garden, "I didn't grow it for myself, I grew it for other people."
Mrs. Potter said her husband was strongly affected by his parents' divorce when he was young.
"When he grew up, he was going to have a family," Mrs. Potter said, adding that Mr. Potter drove to Maumee each weekend to pick up his granddaughter to bring her back to their home in Fayette so they could spend time together. "He just loved his grandchildren."
Mr. Potter, who lived much of his life in northwest Ohio, left the region briefly after graduating from Fayette High School in 1958 when he had trouble finding work.
"The country was in about the situation it is in now, so he and a couple buddies went to Alaska and he was a fisherman," Mrs. Potter said.
Mr. Potter's time in Alaska left him with a lasting love of fishing - and a lifetime of stories about big catches and storms that caused him to pray for his life.
"He had wonderful stories of fishing up there and the countryside," Mrs. Potter said. "It was quite an experience for a young man."
He returned to Ohio in 1961, first working for Johns Manville in Defiance, then GTE in Bryan, and finally Tom's Installation Company in Celina. He retired in 2001, enjoying his time gardening, tinkering with his tractors, fishing, finding mushrooms in secret locations, and telling jokes.
"He was a jokester," Mrs. Potter said. "He loved to tell jokes. He was a people person. He loved to be out and about talking to people."
His tractors also entertained neighborhood kids.
"There isn't a kid in the neighborhood that didn't come to take a ride on Harvey's tractor," Mrs. Potter said.
Mr. Potter was a member of the Sons of the American Legion in Morenci, the Wauseon Lodge No. 349 Free and Accepted Masons, and Scottish Rite of the Valley of Toledo with the Fulton Chapter No. 67 Order of the Eastern Star. He also served on board of public affairs for the Village of Fayette and as past master of the Fayette Masonic Lodge.
Surviving are his wife, DeeAnn, whom he married Sept. 16, 1967; daughters, Doris Lumm, Connie Ferguson, and Deeadra Higgins; four grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, and three step-great-grandchildren.
The body will be in the Eagle Funeral Home, Fayette, after 3 p.m. today, with a Masonic service at 7:30. Funeral services are scheduled for 11 a.m. tomorrow in the mortuary.
The family suggests tributes to the Fayette Rescue Squad or to the Masonic Lodge of Fayette.