Everyone who knew him described Harry Hartshorne as the consummate gentleman always sending hand written notes in response to invitations or following visits with friends.
He was a lover of fine art, the opera, Lagavulin Scotch whisky, his Flowerside Farm in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and was a philanthropist who contributed to numerous boards of directors of charitable organizations including many in Horry County, S.C.
The grandson of prominent Chicago merchant, New York stockbroker and real estate investor Simeon B. Chapin, Harold “Harry” Hartshorne, Jr., was a world traveler with fascinating tales. Many of those stories were about growing up part of the family that helped build the Grand Strand’s Burroughs & Chapin Co., a company that invested generously in efforts to turn Myrtle Beach into the tourist attraction it is today.
With his grandfather, Hartshorne visited Myrtle Beach on many occasions during his youth, and developed an affinity for the Atlantic Ocean and the beach resort that drew him back repeatedly throughout his adult life. Prior to his death Oct. 28, 2013 at age 95, Hartshorne made a final trip from his beloved Flowerside Farm estate to Myrtle Beach to support a gala for the Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum.
“He loved Myrtle Beach,” recalled Cookie Sprouse of The Chapin Foundation. “Mr. Chapin brought him here when he was 10 years old and they stayed at Pine Lakes. He [Harry] could still remember the color of the walls and the smell of the paint it was so new then. He’s been coming here all his life and has been very involved in everything that had to do with the company.”
Sprouse said knowing Hartshorne was as close as one could get to know the late Simeon B. Chapin whose business acumen contributed so greatly to the growth of the area that began with his first investment with the Burroughs family in 1912. Hartshorne was very close to his grandparents who spent a great deal of time with him after his mother, Marietta Chapin Hartshorne, died when he was two years old. Additionally, his father remarried several times and he and Hartshorne’s stepmother at that time died tragically in the 1961 plane crash in Belgium that killed the U.S. Olympic figure skating team on their way to Prague in the Czech Republic.
“Harry had a very strong relationship with Mr. Chapin and would still invoke Mr. Chapin in his decisions sometimes saying ‘Ok, Grandfather, what should I be doing,’” Sprouse said. She said at his last visit during the art museum’s Gatsby benefit held at Pine Lakes, Hartshorne at age 94 “held court” wearing his original coonskin coat in the spirit of the occasion with everyone taking turns to chat with him at his table.
Patricia Goodwin, executive director of the Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum said she first met Hartshorne at age 85 when he bounded up the 20-plus front steps of the museum “bringing all of his charming energy into the building.” While he had served on the art museum board of trustees in earlier years, Goodwin said knew him, not as a board member, but as a friend. At small dinner parties, she and others were fascinated hearing Hartshorne’s stories about his interesting relatives, as well as his connections to people such as Katherine Hepburn and John F. Kennedy.
“I was so blessed to have known someone like Harry Hartshorne,” Goodwin said. “There will never, ever be another like him. He was fortunate to be born into a family of not only wealth but also a true philanthropic spirit. He so often referred to his grandparents as Mr. and Mrs. Chapin. I am very sure that Mr. and Mrs. Chapin would be extremely proud of their Harry and the positive impact he had on so many people.”
Myrtle Beach resident Carolyn Burroughs said she first met Hartshorne in 1970 when her husband, the now late Edward E. Burroughs, was head of Myrtle Beach Farms Company prior to the company becoming Burroughs & Chapin. Hartshorne served on the company board of directors from 1948 to 1998 rarely missing a meeting at the beach.
“He was the most refreshing character and the most interesting person I’ve ever known,” Burroughs said. She noted that Hartshorne raised cattle and sheep and company meetings were often scheduled around Hartshorne’s lambing season.
Hartshorne continued to make his trips to Myrtle Beach, insisting on driving himself from Wisconsin to South Carolina well into his nineties and even after he developed cancer.
“He didn’t let anything stop him until he got really sick,” Burroughs said. “He was a great guy and I don’t think there will be another one… He had a wonderful memory and would tell about things his grandfather did in the 1930s. He would tell a story and remember the date. He loved to talk about it and everyone loved to hear about it.”
To help ensure that his memories last forever, prior to his death Hartshorne put together a book entitled “The Life of Flowerside Farm.”
In addition to his association with the art museum and The Chapin Foundation, Hartshorne was involved with development of The Chapin Library and Myrtle Square Mall. Bill Pritchard met him in the early 1970s as a project architect for the mall when Hartshorne was a board member of Myrtle Beach Farms Company.
“Harry was someone everyone respected. One thing they valued–and I came to value–was his appreciation of design and art,” Pritchard said. “He was very much a gentleman in the classic sense of being a gentle man. He was someone very special in my life for those reasons.”
Pritchard’s wife, Lineta, described Hartshorne as the “world’s best dinner partner,” an amusing man who shared detailed stories about his worldly travels.
“What was so endearing about him,” she said, “was he saw goodness in everything and never criticized. You just wanted to emulate his whole demeanor. He knew how to engage you.”
Lineta Pritchard said Hartshorne, who played music by ear, would entertain them on her 1905 baby grand piano when visiting her home. He would tell stories about crossing the Atlantic on steamships and playing the piano for the passengers, often dressed in his tuxedo.
“He would sit down at the piano and just dance over the keys,” she said. She was so fond of him that when she had the piano turned into a player piano, she named the piano Harry.
“He got a real chuckle out of it although he said I had ruined the integrity of the piano,” she said.
Once when he missed seeing the Pritchards on a visit to the beach because they were out of town, he left a very large fully framed piece of art for her. An artist friend, Charles Dicks, who had traveled to the beach with him, painted it.
“He left it for me with Carolyn Burroughs. He appreciated the energy I had brought to the art museum. It was his way of saying ‘Lineta, you have been a good steward of this place,’” she said.
Claude Epps, who served on several boards with Hartshorne including The Chapin Foundation and also served as Hartshorne’s attorney, remembers tales of Hartshorne playing the piano and singing with John F. “Jack” Kennedy when they were in boarding school together.
“He loved music and the opera,” Epps said. “He loved life and did things in moderation. He visited his grandfather here when Myrtle Beach wasn’t even incorporated. He was the consummate gentleman always. He was just a wonderful guy who lived a full life and made it to 95.”
Sprouse defined Hartshorne, who served as an officer during WWII, as unpretentious and a hard worker although born of privilege. She said he was a wealthy person but a common man who chose farm life over city life and enjoyed a good swim in Lake Geneva every morning. He insisted on knowing people’s names and was interested in knowing all about them, she said. He was the kind of person who would take time to thank the chef at a restaurant for an especially good meal.
Hartshorne, Sprouse said, was the epitome of the “greatest generation” and an individual with clear and simple values; a caliber of individuals rare in today’s society, she said.
He was laid to rest in the Chapin family mausoleum at Oak Hill Cemetery alongside his grandparents, Simeon Brooks Chapin and Elizabeth Mattocks Chapin. Memorial services were held today (Monday, Nov. 4) at the Church of Holy Communion in Lake Geneva.