Aviation icon and Clarinda native Harry Barr passed away July 1 at the age of 84.
Barr was born in Clarinda Oct. 18, 1935, to Hal and Nell (Hartstack) Barr. For the last 45 years, Barr played a vital role in helping organize the annual Clarinda Father’s Day Flight Breakfast and Air Show.
Clarinda pilot Steve Mowery worked closely with Barr on the air show. Mowery said Barr always put his hometown of Clarinda first and showed his selfless nature by working to ensure the air show was a success each year.
“This is such a huge loss for both Clarinda and the aviation community as a whole,” Mowery said. “In the aviation world, Harry was bigger than life. He commanded respect across the nation and everyone knew Harry Barr. I’m really going to miss him as a friend.”
A founding member of Duncan Aviation, Barr worked for the company for more than 50 years. Barr, along with Robert Duncan and his father Donald Duncan, also founded Bank Iowa in 1976 with the purchase of their hometown bank in Clarinda, Citizens State Bank.
“Harry was a man of adventure and action,” said Bank Iowa President and CEO Jim Plagge. “He quickly answered the call when there was work to do or a cause that needed assistance. If he saw something that needed to be done, he either did it himself or mobilized and empowered a team of people to make it happen. His influence is a huge part of our culture and the values we work every day to live out.”
Barr served on the bank and holding company boards since its founding, and according to Plagge, has been a steady, encouraging force supporting the bank’s growth and development over nearly 50 years. He most recently served as a contributor to the bank’s strategic plan development, an initiative that set the trajectory for the bank’s continued year-over-year growth.
Meanwhile, an accomplished pilot, Barr flew airplanes, helicopters and jets. Barr was the 17th pilot to be type-rated in the Learjet. He also flew helicopters and airplanes in support of the Minuteman missile project, as well as to support infrastructure development and firefighting in Alaska.
In addition, Barr was the owner of a pristine P-51 Mustang World War II fighter, “Barbara Jean.” Barr was always one of the featured performers at the Clarinda Air Show as he performed various aerobatic routines with his P-51 fighter.
“We have done the air show in Clarinda ever since I can remember,” Barr said in a 2009 Clarinda Herald-Journal article about the air show. “I always look forward to coming back to Clarinda. It’s a neat place, the people are friendly and you have a wonderful airport.”
In 2005, Barr assisted Clarinda in earning the right to host the Iowa Aviation Expo. This annual event, known as Fly Iowa, was organized by the state of Iowa to showcase the airport and community of the host city to the rest of the state along with Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri.
Among the featured attractions during the Fly Iowa air show in Clarinda was a reenactment of a World War II Pacific air battle including a B-17 bomber, three P-51 Mustangs, a Hellcat Navy Fighter and a Japanese Zero. Barr orchestrated the P-51 extravaganza.
“He got performers to come from all over the country. When they heard Harry Barr was involved, they came from all over to participate,” Mowery said.
Barr was also a member of Holy Savior Lutheran Church, Midwest Aerobatic Club, Warbirds of America, IAC International Aerobatic Club, and EAA Experimental Aircraft Association. He is survived by several family members including his sister Barb (Lyle) Nothwehr of Clarinda.
A public memorial service to honor Barr will be held at a later date.