I knew Harry and jumped with him just a few times back in 1980, before taking a 22 year break from the sport and moving away from SoCal.
Years later, in 1991 we crossed paths in Snohomish, WA when he was up for some 54 Way attempts from a Twin Otter and a small air force of Cessna 182s. We were happy to see each other again and I introduced my two children, who were just little girls at the time.
When we moved back to SoCal in 2002, my wife and I decided to check out Perris one Sunday afternoon, just for "old times' sake". and wouldn't you know it, the first flesh & blood human we ran into was Harry, all geared up for a load. It was like instant old times again. That afternoon put the hook back in my gut and in just a few more months I was jumping again.
Al Kreuger gave a very touching speech about Harry at his Long Beach Flying Club memorial, recounting how Harry probably saved skydiving in SoCal in the mid-1980's. Perris had closed in 1985, while Elsinore was flooded out for the second time. But Harry solicited some 900 subscriptions to form the Perris Valley Skydiving Society, re-opening the Perris dropzone as a private club. And he served on the Society's Executive Board as its Treasurer, struggling to pay the bills for aircraft, fuel, and use of the airport, until the Conatser family stepped back in and re-opened the place as a commercial dropzone in 1987.
Harry wasn't just everyone's friend, he wasn't just a hell of a lot of fun to hang out with or jump with. He was all that for sure. But he also had the guts and the fortitude to step up and do what needed to be done at a desperate moment, with his professional skills as a commercial banker. He probably did save skydiving in SoCal, almost single handedly. For that, we all owe Harry a HUGE debt of gratitude.
I don't think USPA has handed out a posthumous Lifetime Achievent Award yet, but Harry would be a good place to start. And that's a not-so-subtle hint.
(This post was edited by tbrown on Nov 30, 2008, 8:39 PM)
My last chapter in trying to understand why Harry died: I reviewed the autopsy report with a cardiologist who felt that his cardiac abnormalities were the cause of his unconsciousness under canopy. A lot of detail follows. Some of it is not nice at all. Don’t read on if you don’t want to read some graphic medical information.
After 2 months I received the final autopsy report. The blunt trauma part from hitting the ground was pretty horrible. Aortic transection, skull fracture, multiple rib fractures, diaphragmatic hernia. The cardiac abnormalities were also very significant. His heart was enlarged, and the left ventricle was thickened. He had severe atherosclerosis with severe narrowing of the major coronary arteries. The left anterior descending coronary artery was 90% blocked.
For me, the question that I wanted answered was: Why was Harry unconscious? Harry deployed his canopy and then became unconscious. The blunt trauma occurred because he gave no input flying his canopy. His canopy was in a moderate spiral with one brake released. Was the loss of consciousness due to a hard opening, a cardiac event, or some combination of the two?
Yesterday I sat down with the Director of Cardiology at UCLA and reviewed the findings. She was very confident that the cardiac findings were the cause of unconsciousness and he was probably dying from the cardiac problems when he hit the ground. Sudden death is the most common way coronary artery disease is identified. The coronary artery blockages Harry had are classic for causing ventricular tachycardia, resulting in no blood flow to a portion of the heart, causing sudden and immediate unconsciousness and frequently resulting in death. Unlike a heart attack, this is sudden and painless. The person experiencing it does not know it’s coming. The mechanism is, the coronary artery is 90% blocked, a small fragment of plaque or clot moves through the narrowed vessel and lodges long enough to completely block the artery. No blood flow, no perfusion, Vtach & immediate unconsciousness leading to death. The severely narrowed LVA is called the “widdowmaker lesion”. I asked her if a hard opening canopy could have been a factor in this occurring. She thought it was unlikely.
Other people may interpret this any way they like. For me, I think it will help give me peace. His death was not a random, shit happens, skydiving event. It was due to a medical problem that could of occurred anytime, anywhere. I wish we could of identified it somehow and had bypass done, but he was completely asymptomatic.
Janna, thank you so much for sharing this information. I know that delving into these details and then writing it up for us must be hard for you.
But I know that this is an essential step in the process. We were all left with unanswered questions. Why Harry? (Harry of all people!) And why now?
It helps to understand that Harry's death resulted from a medical emergency (which apparently was the cause of both his his hard opening and his uncontrolled descent). That is much better than speculating about some unknown "Shit happens" equipment problem.
This knowledge helps give us insight that will (eventually) help us to find closure. (Yourself included.)
Thanks again Janna. Harry would be proud of you for helping the community to heal in this way.
Janna, thanks for the info. Most importantly I am thankful it will help you find peace in time. In that time please know that there many people who care for you. Our thoughts and prayers are with you, especially at this time of year. Be sure to know that shoulders to lean on, ears for listening, and arms for hugging are never far away.
Tomorrow's the day, it will have been one year. We miss you Harry. Keep an eye on Eli, he's new up there.
Hi tb, Seems like yesterday and now it's been a whole year!! 'Ya hit the nail on the head about saving Skydiving in So Cal, Harry picked up the ball and ran with it!! That was 24 years ago. A lot of contemporary Skydivers were just getting hatched back then. I guess us old folks had to find something to do while we were grounded that summer!! 'Ya can't ferget Harrys' signature line on malfunctions,"It'llclear!!!!" said with a wink and definitely toungue in cheek!!
OMG..these pictures reminded me of just how HAIRY.....HARRY was... I remember the time he told me a super funny joke on a hot summer nite at Perris...it was so funny i spit my gum out when i started to laugh...the gum shot out of my mouth right onto his chest and into all that chest hair...then the fun really began..we were on a quest to get the gum out...the harder he tried, the more it got stuck...then he grabbed the wad of gum, let out a yell that almost blew out my ear drums, and he pulled the gum and a huge hunk of hair off his chest...i can still see him...eyes red...laughing/crying hysterically....and oh the bald spot on his chest...wish i had a picture of that...It helped painwise that we had already polished off a case of beer, but the next case was to celebrate the bald spot and our friendship...THIS is my priceless memory of Harry....and then there's the time when Bill and Chris Deli and Bill Hallam and I and Harry went out dancin' and drinkin' in Otay.....let's just say that the band entertained us, but i think Chris and i offered better entertainment WELL...that's another story.Don't tell me the sky's the limit when there are footprints on the moon!
Jun 11, 2010, 6:11 PM
Post #93 of 96
Re: [MissBuffDiver] Harry Leicher is gone ...
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OMG..these pictures reminded me of just how HAIRY.....HARRY was... I remember the time he told me a super funny joke on a hot summer nite at Perris...it was so funny i spit my gum out when i started to laugh...the gum shot out of my mouth right onto his chest and into all that chest hair...then the fun really began..we were on a quest to get the gum out...the harder he tried, the more it got stuck...then he grabbed the wad of gum, let out a yell that almost blew out my ear drums, and he pulled the gum and a huge hunk of hair off his chest...i can still see him...eyes red...laughing/crying hysterically....and oh the bald spot on his chest...wish i had a picture of that...It helped painwise that we had already polished off a case of beer, but the next case was to celebrate the bald spot and our friendship...THIS is my priceless memory of Harry....and then there's the time when Bill and Chris Deli and Bill Hallam and I and Harry went out dancin' and drinkin' in Otay.....let's just say that the band entertained us, but i think Chris and i offered better entertainment WELL...that's another story.
Don't tell me the sky's the limit when there are footprints on the moon! OMG I laughed and laughed reading that! The VISUALS!!!!
Yes, Harry was hairy .... I wish you had a pic ... THAT would be PRICELESS!!!
Hairy Harry ... we miss you ... LP misses you .... I miss your letters in the mail. With a little note and a pic of me that you took and then took the time to send to me ....
Glad you enjoyed the story. Yes he was HAIRY-HARRY!!!... I would bring my girls to the DZ, ages 3 and 5 with me all the time. The youngest one asked " is that man a bear mama?" The older one wanted to put braids in his back hair....so funny the things kids say...Wish he were here to tell the story about me and Chris Deli in the bar at Otay....cuz I was out of it and don't remember....In fact he reminded me when I joined this site a few yrs back...perhaps Bill Deli could tell the story cuz he was there too...I remember dancin' then waking up in a motel with one hell of a hangover....those were the days.