Gary Alvin Harmsen

Gary Alvin Harmsen

October 26, 1942 — March 29, 2018

Gary Alvin Harmsen passed away March 29, 2018, at his home in Horseshoe Bay, Texas, after a long battle with prostate cancer. He was born in eastern Iowa on Oct. 26, 1942, to Alvin and Grace Harmsen. Gary graduated from Bennett High School in 1959. Following graduation, he began his studies in history and economics at William Penn College in Oskaloosa, Iowa, where he earned his bachelor of arts degree in 1963.
Shortly after graduating from Penn, Gary married his college sweetheart, Betty Jean Frazer, of Council Bluffs, Iowa, after which he did graduate work in accounting at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In 1965, Gary accepted a job with Arthur Anderson & Co. in Omaha, where he became a Certified Public Accountant and was an auditor for several years. He later worked for the Swanson Corp. and Midwest Glass & Glazing. A developing entrepreneurial spirit, financial acumen and a good eye for investments led Gary to begin a career in real estate, starting with buying and selling FHA repossessed homes and apartment complexes. He then founded Harmsen Enterprises Inc. and Harmsen Management Services, which syndicated and managed residential and commercial properties throughout Omaha. He considered the trust his investors placed in him a privilege and a responsibility. To Gary, it wasn’t just business. He saw it as a personal obligation to find real estate properties that would provide his investors the best possible return. At different periods of his life he also had ventures in an ice cream business, a Colorado-condo booking service, and a travel agency, the last of which gave him opportunities to travel to such places as the Soviet Union, the Fiji Islands, and Australia. He eventually merged Harmsen Management Services with Mega Corp., which later merged with CB Richard Ellis. When he retired, Gary was Vice President at CBRE|Mega.

Gary had been eyeing the beautiful Texas Hill Country for several years, so when he retired in 2007, he and his wife moved to Horseshoe Bay, Texas. That same year they also started Haiti Share, Inc., a 501(c)(3) charity that provides schooling and leadership training to Haitians. Gary and Betty were active members of the Bible Church of the Lakes in Horseshoe Bay.

Gary was a larger-than-life personality who was known for his generous nature and love of learning. He enjoyed surprising people by picking up their tab and entertaining them with his “quiz of the day,” which could be a geographical question, the origin of a word, or some other trivia question. He loved watching the Nebraska Cornhuskers and the San Antonio Spurs, playing cards with friends, and doing crossword puzzles. He also enjoyed trips with his family, from skiing in the Colorado Rocky Mountains to his annual “Grandpa Vacations.”

Gary is survived by his wife of nearly 55 years, Betty Harmsen; his daughter Cheri Huerta, her husband Juan, and their children David, Daniel, and Nathan of McAllen, Texas; his daughter Debbie Harmsen of Dallas; his sisters Deanna Harmsen of Horseshoe Bay and Betty Ann Harmsen of Omaha; and his brothers Robert Harmsen of Davenport, Iowa, Richard Harmsen and his wife Marjorie of Durant, Iowa, and Calvin Harmsen and his wife Patricia of Horseshoe Bay.

A memorial service honoring Gary’s life will be held on Saturday, April 7, at 2 p.m. at The Church at Horseshoe Bay, 600 Hi Ridge Road, Horseshoe Bay, and officiated by Pastor Fred Bates. There will be a time during the service for attendees to share their memories about Gary. All are invited to the service and reception that follows at the church. You also are invited to sign the online guest book at

Before he died, Gary requested that in lieu of flowers, memorials be given to Haiti Share, Inc. Donations can be given online at or sent by mail to Haiti Share, P.O. Box 9208, Horseshoe Bay, Texas 78657–9208.

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