Music 13

Kenneth Harshbarger

October 7, 1947 ~ April 8, 2022 (age 74)


Kenneth "Ken" Orvie Harshbarger, age 74, of Lawrenceburg, IN passed away, surrounded by his family, on April 8, 2022. Ken was born in Hillsboro, OH to Orvie William and Ruth Mildred (nee Fender) Harshbarger on October 7, 1947. In Ken’s youth, when not in school, attending cub scout meetings, playing softball, finding the best nightcrawler that would catch the biggest bass, or watching an episode of The Andy Griffith Show, he helped his family in their corner food market by taking deli orders, stocking shelves, bagging groceries, or filling the ‘bottomless’ penny candy containers, which he would later bring to life in the story of the ‘Magic Candy Case,’ told at bedtime to his grandchildren. Harshbarger’s and Son, would shape many aspects of Ken’s life. The Harshbarger way meant you were greeted, by name, with a friendly hello and a listening ear if needed. You could expect to be treated with kindness, respect, and consideration. Ken saw this modeled by his parents, day in and day out, thus was part of his nature. His parents valued their customers, who were also their neighbors. If  someone needed help, whether that meant a line of credit or groceries delivered, they provided that help. Ken's nature was also empathetic. He was honored to be of service to those he loved and cared for, as well as to those in need.  As Ken’s story was written, he would one day develop an interest in financial planning and have his own business to help alleviate others’ financial stress. Although his business was not a corner grocery, not many a day passed without Ken having to ‘run to the store’ for a forgotten item. 


At a young age, Ken developed his love for music. Ken studied piano and trombone. By the age of 12, he was recruited to play in Hillsboro High School’s Marching Band and sang in the High School’s Choir. In 1965, he was accepted to the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music concentrating on Voice Performance and Piano. His most memorable college experience was traveling to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall, Columbia University, and at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts with the Chorale and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. 


On March 22, 1969, Ken married his high school sweetheart, Margaret Ruhama Sampson, and the love of his life for 53 years.  They raised their family in Anderson Township where they spent their summers at Summit Swim & Tennis Club.  Ken loved playing games, most notably basement ping pong, checkers, and cards. Whether it be playing Euchre late into the evening on New Year's Eve, with lifelong friends Ron and Pat Cave, or being caught with the Old Maid while playing cards with his grandchildren, he was always up to play. In his spare time he could be found attending his children's and grandchildren's musical performances and sporting events, sometimes watching at a distance, with a cigar in hand. Ken was a proud and lifelong fan of Cincinnati sports. He shared attending a Cincinnati Bengals football game at the inaugural season at Nippert Stadium. He also attended baseball games at Crosley Field, Riverfront Stadium and in later years at the Great American Ballpark. 


Ken measured his life in riches, through the relationships he tended to, with family, friends, and community.  Ken’s life motto was, ‘it’s better to be nice than to be right.’ He was an excellent writer and orator of spoken word.  His hand-written cards were keepsakes and his speeches at family gatherings were always revered for their wisdom, compassion and touch of song or history.  He found his inspiration from the ministry and teachings of Dr. Robert Schuller, Dr. Wayne Dyer, and Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. He was a devout Christian studying The Bible and serving the Lord.  He was a member of several church congregations throughout his life, the last being the First Presbyterian Church (Harrison, OH).  Ken and his family attended Anderson Hills United Methodist Church and in earlier years, Covenant-First Presbyterian Church. As an active church member, Ken contributed to services through his wondrous gift of song. He and Margaret enjoyed many years together singing in the choir while he also enjoyed the role of assistant conductor. 


Classical music would become something Ken held deeply sacred. Cincinnati’s Classical Public Music Radio, WGUC, was the only station for Ken. When riding in his car, he would tell kids his car only had one station, that ‘the dial’ was stuck! WGUC’s music accompanied Ken each morning during his daily meditations, at work, during his walks, while gardening, at the pool, and got him through the hardest times in his life.  If you were lucky, you’d witness him being an active participant in one of the symphonies whether that meant he was conducting along at the most melodic or climatic of measures, or perhaps you’d get to hear him emulate the horn or percussion section. Even better, a thrill was to hear him sing along to Handel’s Messiah at Easter. You see, when Ken tuned in to WGUC, he was on stage, in his element, and it was magical to witness. Ken loved to speak in awe of his favorite composers Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, and Mozart and kept their busts and portraits atop his piano. Ken also loved live classical performances and was a life-long supporter of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, attending countless performances. Ken loved sharing his gift of music with his wife and family. After family meals, special occasions were characterized by Ken and the children gathered around the piano singing songs out of the Ruth Lyons ‘Sing a Song’ book and playing other familiar show tunes.


Ken taught his children discipline and hard work by serving at the USPS for over 30 years. During his tenure, he sorted mail and was a clerk. His co-workers nicknamed him ‘Olive’ for his love of the brined fruit and his mysterious ‘O’ middle initial. Ken’s retirement years were joyful and active. With his move to Hidden Valley, he found a love of gardening and landscaping and some of his best days were spent taking his grandchildren to the Cincinnati Zoo, caring for the birds, plants, and soils through his profound love for nature. Ken spent his summer days at the pool, basking in the sun and swimming laps, reading, baking, or entertaining. He learned to swim as an adult, which was admirable. At the start of each day, Ken loved rising early and watching the sunrise over the pond in their backyard, awaiting the arrival of the hummingbirds, woodpeckers, and other local bird species. At the end of the day, Ken would often dust off the ivories and serenade Margaret with some of her favorite Beatles, Henry Mancini, and Cole Porter songs. They would always share a bite to eat and thank the Lord for the gifts bestowed upon them. Ken was content living a simple life. 


Ken is survived by his treasured wife Margaret (Sampson) Harshbarger; four beloved children, Margaret ‘Meg’ (Randy) Cross, Tamara ‘Tammy’ (Amir Hanjani) Harshbarger, Clark (Paula) Harshbarger and Erich (Catie Nguyen) Harshbarger; his adored grandchildren, Henry, Nelson, Savannah, Vivienne ‘Vivie’, Nathan and Etienne ‘Eti’; his sister, Carolyn Henderson, loving in-laws, nephews, nieces, and their children, a host of long-time friends and his loyal cat, Tosca, named after Puccini’s loved opera.  Ken was preceded in death by his parents Orvie and Ruth (nee Fender) Harshbarger, and his sister, Donna (Alfred) Cramton and his brother-in-law Philip Henderson.  He will be forever in the hearts of those who knew him. 


A Memorial Service will be held Friday, April 29, 2022, at 1:00 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church, 115 S Vine St, Harrison, OH 45030 with Rev. Dr. Joshua Long officiating.  A reception will follow at Kreimer’s Bier Haus 6052 OH-128 Cleves, OH 45002 from 2:30 to 4:30 PM.  A private interment will be held Saturday, April 30, 2022, at 1:00 p.m. at Browns Chapel Cemetery in Clarksburg, OH. 


In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made, in Ken’s honor, to these organizations:

90.9 WGUC, Cincinnati Public Radio
PO BOX 932903
Cleveland, OH 44193


Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center 

3333 Burnet Ave., 

Cincinnati, OH 45229


To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Kenneth, please visit our floral store.


Memorial Service
April 29, 2022

1:00 PM
First Presbyterian Church of Harrison
115 S. Vine St
Harrison, OH

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