HAROLD MCLEOD (1926-2013)
Publication: Desoto Sun; Date: Aug 15, 2013; Section: Arcadian; Page: AS23 "A tribute to Harold McLeod" by Carol Mahler
Harold McLeod was both a doer and a dreamer, and during the last two decades or so, the DeSoto County Historical Society was the beneficiary of his efforts. He was born during the 1926 hurricane, the one that destroyed Moore Haven and sacked Miami. Maybe that wild wind was the genesis of his energy and creativity.
He made beautiful wood bowls and decorative butter churns which were auctioned at Historical Society meetings to raise funds. He also crafted picture frames, a raffle basket, lemonade stand, parade floats and more. Once he fashioned a round wood table with a lip on it, and I filled it with sand because I wanted older adults to teach children how to shoot marbles. Everyone said that it was a nice idea, but marbles had to be played on the ground. Eventually, he repurposed the materials of that table: he practiced the skill of re-use.
When his health prevented him from doing the work himself, he designed structures and directed others. One memorable evening, he oversaw five Historical Society members build a replica of a wood outhouse. Even men who knew construction couldn’t understand what Harold was doing, but they followed his directions and were surprised at the tidy result.
Sometimes his wood work was elegant, and other times, it was what Historical Society members liked to call “rustic.” He painted signs for the Historical Society, and more than once he composed a series of signs recalling the old “Burma Shave” rhymes. One time, he commented that he could chart his failing health in the declining quality of his lettering.
Not only did he have the ingenuity to repair a pitcher pump, but he also used a computer to make flyers, posters, hand-held fans, membership applications, event programs and more. At some point, he realized that he wrote (and spoke) what I call “Cracker vernacular,” so he asked others to proofread his work.
He spent hours dreaming up “projects” for the Society — especially fundraising ideas — but he also knew the importance of education. Perhaps he was influenced by his uncle Jasper Crowley, longtime Sarasota County teacher and Crowley Museum and Nature Center benefactor.
Harold masterminded our annual Pioneer Day event, and he served as chairman of the first festival. Next year is the 10th anniversary, and I’m sorry he won’t be there to celebrate and be honored. That’s another of his qualities: humility. Most people don’t know how much he did for the Historical Society, and that’s the way he wanted it.
One of his achievements was figuring out how to construct a replica of John Morgan Ingraham’s Seed House for the Howard and Velma Melton Historical Research Library. Outside, the Seed House resembles the historic wood-frame store, but inside is a modern research facility built to protect the archives.
The Historical Society relied on Harold’s advice for both the restoration of the John Morgan Ingraham Home and the construction of the Seed House. Any time work was being done, Harold was there to watch and critique. Everyone respected his expertise and common sense.
He was also a terrific storyteller, faithful friend, and dedicated board member. He appreciated others and their talents and knew when to make a suggestion and when to say “yes, ma’am.”
As member Max Fitzpatrick wrote, “Harold was a tremendous asset to Arcadia and DeSoto County ... do not let his ideas and dreams get lost.”