As a kid in Ardmore, Okla., Daniel Harshman was drawn to life on the range — not yet in practice, but by watching westerns on TV and reading books by Louis L'Amour.
His family moved to Minnesota and he graduated from Fridley High School in 1964, afterward enlisting in the U.S. Army and later serving 30 years as a St. Paul police officer.
On Aug. 26, 1994, Harshman was a sergeant in charge of a murder scene on one of the city's darkest days. Officers Ron Ryan Jr. and Tim Jones, along with Jones' police dog, Laser, were killed by a former Marine reported to be sleeping in an East Side church parking lot.
Harshman, put in charge of the crime scene in the wooded area where Jones and Laser were slain, said then that neither of the officers had erred, but that others in the department, including himself, might have: "All human endeavors are fraught with mistakes," he said.
A year later, Chief Bill Finney tapped Harshman to lead the department's Mounted Patrol. In 1999, Harshman retired to a hobby farm in Texas with his horse, Major, and wife, Barbara — an operator in the police communications center who spoke with Ron Ryan Jr. just 20 minutes before he was shot and killed.
Harshman, who went on to spend much of his retirement riding Harleys, died Dec. 27 in New Richmond, Wis., after a six-year battle with cancer.
He was 76, only a few years removed from cross-country trips with friend Dave Smith of the Blue Knights Motorcycle Club. Of his affinity for horses and motorcycles, son Marc Harshman said: "I kind of liken it to the cowboy mentality — the freedom to go off on an adventure."
He said his father was a straight shooter, blunt but not inconsiderate of others' feelings: "Good or bad, you're dealing with them on their worst days," he quoted his father as saying about police work. "You're not going to sugarcoat things."
Daniel Harshman also was driven to do what's right.
At his memorial service, his brother Tom Harshman spoke of being a hockey goalie for Fridley High and playing at the University of St. Thomas before an eye injury derailed his dreams of a NHL career. Tom went into a deep spiral, he said, doing things that put him on the radar of law enforcement — and, more importantly, that of his police officer brother.
"This is the end for you if you don't sit up and take notice," Daniel Harshman told him.
Tom turned his life around, graduating from St. Thomas, embarking on a successful business career, marrying and having two sons, all while crediting Daniel for taking him under his wing and making sure he did not fail.
"I owe him," Tom Harshman said.
Harshman also is survived by siblings Celia and Jerry Harshman and Paula Arnold; children Suzi Holm, Lisa Carpentier, Timothy Harshman, Rachel Carpentier, Pamela Spencer, John Carpentier and Andrea Baldazo; and 13 grandchildren. Services have been held.