I am underwater and I am in a complete and total state of joy. There's grass under the water! I stand up out of the water screaming with glee. “Do it again, Daddy! Do it again!” My dad picks me up with his big burly arms and flings me through the air over the field of water, my arms and legs outstretched. My whole face a smile. Splash! I dive deep. I open my eyes. There's grass under the water! There’s grass under the water! I am utterly amazed. “Do it again, Daddy! Do it again! There’s grass under the water, Daddy!” I scream, pointing down. Maybe it was a foot deep. I’m two, maybe three years old. We’re in my grandparents’ backyard. The field between the house and the greenhouses is flooded from a big rain. A large oak tree stands sentry in the middle of the field. The sky is bright blue after the storm.
Harry Eugene McQueen was born on August 16, 1949, in Mercedes, Texas. He was a son and brother, husband, father and grandfather, US Army veteran, and artist. He left this world on January 13, 2022, surrounded by his family and listening to Bob Dylan’s Mr. Tambourine Man, his favorite song. Though his heart would be broken when he put his parents, Mac and Scottie McQueen, sister Mary Carla (Alan) Thompson, and his beloved daughter Abigail to rest, he found his life’s love at the age of 14 when he met his future wife, Kathleen Isgrig. Their marriage was filled with the unique joy that comes with being best friends. He reveled in being a towering figure in the lives of his children Daniel McQueen and Ann Straessle, and loved their spouses, Alison and Steve, like his own.
His years were graced by his eight grandchildren who studied every story he told until his final breath left him. Iris and Ruby McQueen love art in praise of his patient instruction. Jacob, Abby, Sam, Jed, Kate, and Kaela Straessle can sing American Pie word-for-word because of him. His brothers and sisters-in-law – Mike and Debra McQueen, Sam and Monica McQueen, as well as his sisters and brothers-in-law - Mary Carla and Alan Thompson, Suzie and David Wetherington - were all lifelong partners in crime. He was a proud member of the Usual Suspects and believed in the innate goodness of humankind. He described himself often as a knee-jerk, yellow-dog Democrat.
Harry graduated from Little Rock’s Fuller High School in 1967. He joined his father-in-law’s business before volunteering for duty in the Vietnam War. He was wounded while there and bore a scar on his face as a result, but that scar only accented his easy smile when he laughed. Later, he’d spend years working at the VA Hospital at Fort Roots. Harry enjoyed the outdoors, particularly fishing. Whether floating a snake-filled stream in a belly boat or casting a fly line at a boulder pool, he was always with his wife and best friend, Kathy. They made the outdoors into a chapel as that’s where their love for the simple things in life – and for one another – expanded.
Eventually, maybe, way too soon, actually, my father stops throwing me into the flooded waters, and we go inside. “No, let’s go in,” he said. He threw me maybe three times. He was always so safe. I splash through the water behind him. It is the most joyful experience of my life. I think of that moment now because it was so indicative of who our father, Harry McQueen, was. Ann and I were always moved by the lengths he’d go to be present for both of us. When our father completed a work tenure in Oklahoma City for a year, he drove home every Friday night to be with us. He never missed one of our soccer games, never missed an event we were in.
Ann understood even then that he did that for her, to show what being a good parent is all about. She embraced the fact that he enjoyed unique adventures and was never afraid to do what was right, even if it was a significant challenge. She’s proud that these traits are present in her own children and recognizes her father as the reason for that. We both beheld a father who taught us what it means to be strong, to always support the ones you love, to keep a family safe. He told us to be good citizens and to stand for the things that mattered. He taught us to enjoy the outdoors and appreciate genuine relationships. He wanted us to be happy.
We miss him dearly.
We love you, Dad, Pere (Grand Pere), Genie.
In lieu of flowers, donations in his name may be made to the Medicinal Mindfulness Center non-profit (75 Manhattan Drive, Suite 106, Boulder, CO, 80303) to help people who are healing from trauma and PTSD, or the Little Rock Catholic High School scholarship fund (www.lrchs.org). A memorial party will be held in his memory at a later date.
To send flowers to Harry's family, please visit our floral store.