John Harmon, a National Wrestling Hall of Fame Governors Associate who received the Lifetime Service to Wrestling Award from the New Jersey Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2014, passed away on Tuesday, at the age of 80 years old.
There will be a memorial service on Sunday, Oct. 1, at 2:30 p.m., at Poulson & Van Hise, 650 Lawrenceville Road, Lawrenceville, New Jersey, 08648. There will be a reception immediately following at Mountain View Golf Club, 850 Bear Tavern Road, Ewing, New Jersey, 08628. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Clyde F Barker Transplant House at http://ow.ly/2NUY30ftDvU
“On behalf of our Board of Governors and the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, we extend our sincere sympathies to John’s wife, Elaine, their daughters, Debbie and Wendy, and his family and friends,” said Executive Director Lee Roy Smith. “John was a significant member of our board for nearly two decades, and generously blessed our organization and the sport with his time, talents and treasure. He will always be remembered and loved by the Hall of Fame for his wisdom, philanthropy and concern for preserving our sport’s heritage.”
Harmon, who was a member of the Board of Governors from 1996-2013, was one of the original contributors to an endowment fund created for the Hall of Fame in 2007, making a $500,000 pledge. He was also instrumental in helping the Hall of Fame get funding in 2009 for its “Glory Beyond the Sport: Wrestling and the Military” book and exhibit at the museum, and was co-founder and treasurer of the New Jersey Chapter.
“The Hall of Fame is our heritage and it needs to be preserved,” said Harmon at the time. “Everybody knows who the national champions were last year, but what about 40 or 50 years ago. The Hall of Fame is the repository for that information.”
Harmon became a wrestling fan while attending Lehigh University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1959. He founded and published the EIWA Newsletter, which was recognized as Wrestling Publication of the Year in 2001 by the National Wrestling Media Association, from 1990-2013, and was co-author of the History of Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association. He received the Bob Dellinger Wrestling Writer of the Year award in 2012, presented annually to the nation’s top wrestling journalist. He was director of sports information for the EIWA while also serving on the EIWA Hall of Fame Board of Directors and as a liaison between the NCAA and working media at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships from 1998-2006.
“John Harmon never stepped on the mat as a wrestler, but the impact he had on our sport and will continue to have on our sport through his endowment to the Hall of Fame is immeasurable,” said Terry Shockley, Chairman of the Board of Governors. “John loved wrestling, and he understood the importance of preserving its history. He was also someone who was willing to do whatever was necessary for wrestling, particularly to help it grow.”
He and his wife, Elaine, funded the renovation of Grace Hall, the notorious wrestling venue at Lehigh known at the Snake Pit, and they were also instrumental in helping to fund the Caruso Wrestling Complex, named in honor of Mike Caruso, who was inducted as a Distinguished Member by the Hall of Fame in 1991. The Harmons also supported the head wrestling coach endowment and the John J. Harmon ’59 Wrestling Scholarship as well as the building of Goodman Stadium and the Oberkotter Memorial Endowment Fund.
He worked throughout his life as a programmer and systems analyst for various Fortune 500 companies, including Mutual Life, New York Central Railroad, Schenley Industries, Olivetti Corporation and Iowa Pacific Holdings, where he was a member of its Board of Directors. He was a member of the National Railroad Historical Society and a representative to TEFS Limited, a group that organizes tours for the study of operating steam power railways. Harmon also served on the Lawrence Township Board of Education and served as president of the Mercer County School Board Association.