By Naomi Hatch
The Taylor/Shumway Heritage Foundation is honoring Harvey and Vera Hancock Palmer through March at the Taylor Museum, located at 4 N. Main St. The museum is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, or call Katy at 536-2635 for an appointment.
The display includes one of the many beautiful quilts made by Vera as well as many items of memorabilia from the couple’s past.
Harvey Gibbons Palmer was born on Jan. 7, 1916, to Arthur and Evaline August Gibbons Palmer on a farm in Taylor, and weighed 15 pounds. He was the fourth of 11 children.
His history notes that he was very active, that at 19 months at a children’s dance at Decker Hall, he was running across the dance floor and twisted his knee and had to be carried home. At home his mother sat him in a rocking chair, leaving two sisters to watch him. The history states, “Harvey started rocking and before long he pitched forward onto a red hot stove. The rocking chair pinned him to the stove in a position that he couldn’t get out of. The girls screamed and got their mother, who took him off of the stove, but his face was scarred for the rest of his life.”
Because of the burn scar that looked like a hairlip, Harvey was teased in his younger years, getting into many fights “defending his honor,” but that was good training for his years as a boxer. He boxed in the 198 to 202 pound weight class, and was a very talented boxer at 6’1”. He fought as an amateur and professionally, both locally and in the Navy. He was undefeated in the approximately 104 matches he boxed. He had 68 knockouts and he was never knocked down, never even had a black eye.
“According to him, the only time he ever lost a fight was with his wife!,” says the history.
Harvey started high school at 12 years old and even though he didn’t really enjoy being there, he liked his Spanish class and loved sports.
His family moved to Holbrook in 1932 when his father got a job as deputy assessor at the county courthouse, but Harvey stayed on the farm in Taylor. During his senior year he had his eye on Vera Hancock, a freshman. They dated for a while and broke up because Vera thought he was too old for her. In her senior year, though, they got back together and soon were discussing marriage.
Vera was born to Arthur and Florence Vera Colbath Hancock on Nov. 3, 1918. She was the second of nine children, six boys and three girls. A brother died at six months from pneumonia.
Her schooling began in the old red brick house on the hill west of 700 East and Center in Taylor. She got diphtheria that year and almost died. The new school was built the next year where the present Taylor Elementary School stands.
Vera was active in sports and always in some kind of tournament, from jacks to basketball to track. She was one of eight students who graduated from eighth grade.
In high school she was active in sports, music and studied hard. She was in the Snowflake High School’s first marching pep squad. She was in the chorus that went to Flagstaff every year, and she had several parts in the pageants held at the sinks.
“During my senior year, I had a kidney infection which kept me out of school for six weeks, and later kept me from entering college. I was told by several doctors not to get married, and if I did, not to have children,” Vera noted in her history.
Dr. Heywood stayed close to her, never telling her not to get married or not have children as other doctors had done due to the kidney infection.
Vera and Harvey were married June 14, 1937, right after her high school graduation, and they began married life in Taylor as a couple of farmers.
Their first child Florence Evaline was born April 2, 1938, and lived just a few seconds. She was over nine pounds, but died of strangulation because she was breech.
The following year they had a son, Harvey Leon, almost losing him the same way. “He was our pride and joy, and was a great comfort to us while waiting for Deanne and Elaine,” the history continues.
That July, after the 24th celebration, they were admiring their farm and Harvey vowed he wouldn’t trade places with anyone in the valley. The next evening a hailstorm hit, wiping out their farm and many others in Taylor. Harvey had to go to work for wages, practically giving away what was left.
He worked as a special officer for the Santa Fe Railroad, milked cows and washed dishes. He enlisted in the Navy in 1944, which was a desire he always had. He served on the U.S.S. Tucson-C.L.-98 and remained on that cruiser until the war was over.
“In one of the attacks, Japanese kamikazes, or suicide bombers, threatened to hit the ship. One particular kamikaze was headed straight for Harvey’s area of the ship. The gunner on duty immediately froze with fear. Seeing this, Harvey pushed the man out of his way and quickly shot the kamikaze down, but not before the plane got close enough to see the young Japanese boy’s face. Harvey, who wasn’t supposed to shoot the guns, saved the ship from the devastating blow of an airplane,” his history states.
After the war he returned to his job with the Santa Fe Railroad, one of his most enjoyable jobs because it involved horses and he had had a love for horses since he was young.
He was good at training horses. Harvey stated in his history, “I have trained multiple horses and over the years they have grown in number to exceed a hundred. I never found a horse that couldn’t be trained; I had some that I didn’t think could be all the way trusted as key horses, but a horseman could get them to respond properly.”
His favorite horse was a stripe faced blood bay colt named “Chappo” that he got in November 1943.
Harvey spent from 1941 to 1966 doing law enforcement work for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
Vera went to work when Elaine turned 5 to help pay expenses at first, but “the jobs grew on me,” she said in her history. She worked at the Spudnut shop in Show Low, Mr. Lillywhite’s grocery store in Snowflake, the Ross Cafe in Show Low and then worked at Valley National Bank for 2½ years. When the Snowflake bank opened, she went to work there, where she worked 20 years as bookkeeper, teller and operations, doing a little bit of everything but loans. Two of her bosses were her brother, Bill J. Hancock, and her son, Leon.
Harvey and Vera served in many different callings in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and were always very faithful.
In 1959 the Taylor Hall of Fame began with Vera and Pearl Solomon taking turns as chairman. Vera was inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 4, 1975, for her thoughtfulness and service.
For many, many years Vera remembered everyone’s birthday, at first with a pie or a cheesecake, but as Taylor grew she began to mail a birthday card and eventually she made phone calls. Leon remembers the birthday calendar and said it was almost black on the dates because of all the names of people she called to tell them happy birthday and that she loved them.
Her granddaughter, Leianne Palmer Fish, remembers that she would say she loved you to everyone and she was always sincere.
When Vera was down she would say a prayer and find someone who needed her help, or take something she had cooked to someone and she wouldn’t feel down anymore.
Vera ends her history saying, “Yes, my life has been interesting, and I’m grateful for these many years that the doctors said I wouldn’t have if I married and had children. I am especially grateful for my wonderful husband, and the counsel and advice that he gives me, to help to keep me in line in my impulsive nature.”
Harvey was a stern, tough man, but had a very loving side, which was shown as he tenderly cared for Vera when she had Alzheimer’s. She passed away July 26, 1998.
“Harvey never fully recovered from losing his dear wife; in fact, the remainder of his life was spent in missing her and longing to be around his family,” his history states.
He briefly moved to Mesa, living next to his brother Gus, and continued working in the Mesa LDS Temple, but soon moved back to Taylor to be near family.
Harvey passed away on Aug. 7, 2001, after a brief illness. At that time they had three living children, 17 grandchildren, 62 great-grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren.
By Naomi Hatch