Harold Bliss, Jr. was born on January 22, 1920 in Shelby, Ohio. Harold (he much preferred to be called Bliss and we will gladly oblige him here) was the only son of Etta and Harold Bliss. Growing up he spent time riding bikes and getting into mischief as many boys did in those days.
When he started as a freshman at Shelby High in 1935, Bliss found a focus for all of his youthful energy and quickly became a standout in both track and football. Bliss loved the competitive nature of sports. What he did not like was losing. Not that he experienced the bitter taste of defeat very often. For three years straight, Bliss was named the All-North Central Ohio Conference running back, and in 1938 the Shelby High Whippets went undefeated, beating Mansfield Senior High and winning the NCO title.
Bliss set the school record in the 100-yard dash – 10.0 seconds. He made a long-standing offer: He would buy a steak dinner for any Whippet who could beat his 10.0. That record remained unbeaten until the 100-yard dash was replaced by the 100 meters.
With an athletic scholarship, Bliss headed to Mississippi State in Starkville. His goal: earning a degree in physical education. His college life was much like high school. He studied hard but focused on athletics, exce1ling at both track and football.
Whenever Bliss made it back to Shelby, he made sure to check on how the football team was faring without him. Bliss loved to tell the story of how he came home one weekend and headed over to Skiles Field with his buddies to catch a Friday night game. As he watched the Whippets struggle to gain yardage (and possibly after a few sips of whiskey), Bliss decided it was up to him to give his alma mater a bit of help. Leaving his friends in the stands, Bliss darted onto the field and tackled the opposing team’s runner.
In 1942, with war raging across Europe, Bliss left Mississippi State just one year short of graduation and headed to Ft. Polk in Louisiana to begin his Army basic training. On completion, Bliss was assigned to recruiting offices across the country. He would often say it was because of his charm and, of course, his All-American good looks. It was during a recruiting trip to Grand Forks, North Dakota that he met his future wife, Allison Reid. After finishing the recruitment tour, Bliss was posted to Ft. Bragg, North Carolina where he qualified as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division and then was reassigned to the 101st Airborne Division, known as the screaming eagles for its distinctive arm patch. It was during his time at Ft. Bragg that Bliss once again bumped into Allison Reid, whose family had moved from North Dakota to North Carolina. They married in March of 1943, and daughter Linda was born a year later.
Bliss was soon sent to England and made his first combat jump in the pre-dawn hours of June 6, 1944- D-Day – onto a drop zone located midway between St. Mere Eglise and Utah Beach, just inland from the St. Martin de Varreville coastal battery. His unit’s mission was to silence the battery. But Bliss landed in a hedgerow outside of St. Mere Eglise and was fired upon while hanging from his chute. He suffered multiple bullet wounds to his side. After being freed, Bliss was unable to find his unit. He carried on until a booby-trapped German “88” gun blew up and nearly took off his right leg. Bliss was left behind, considered dead, until an Army private found him unconscious and carried him to a field hospital. Evacuated, he remained in an English hospital for the next year. Upon his return to the States he was awarded the Purple Heart with three Oak Leaf Clusters. His unit was awarded a Presidential Citation.
Bliss began suffering from “battle fatigue” – what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. In 1948 he and Allison added daughter Sara Lee to their family. In speaking with a doctor about his battle fatigue, the doctor asked Bliss to recall a fond memory from his childhood. He remembered riding the old work horses on his grandfather’s farm. The doctor suggested that by reconnecting with horses, Bliss might find that peace again.
As with everything in his life, Bliss dove into his work with horses head first and became a first-class horseman and involved the whole family in his newfound passion. Both Linda and Sara Lee became excellent riders. He was instrumental in starting the Richland County Mounted Police group. As some of his friends talked to him about troubles they were having with their sons, Bliss figured if horses had saved him from himself, maybe they would help these young men as well.
While working at Ohio Seamless Tube, he used his free time to become a guiding force for local youth who needed an outlet in their lives – someone to look up to and admire. By teaching them to care for horses, he taught responsibility. By teaching them to ride, they learned focus and dedication. By teaching them to show horses, they were able to earn respect and find pride in their hard work.
Bliss continued to work with horses and youth in the Shelby area long after his daughters had married and moved away. During all of these years, he rarely missed a football game or track meet at Shelby High, taking up his usual spot at the end of the field, leaning against the fence. After Allison’s death in 1993, Bliss spent much of his time in the warmer temperatures of Florida until he passed away on July 3, 2000. He left behind his daughters, Linda and Sara Lee, as well as Sara Lee’s children, Jason and Carrie. The family was overwhelmed with cards and letters recalling fond memories of Bliss and the impact he had on so many lives.
Standing in for the late Harold Bliss at the induction will be his daughters: Linda Bliss Regel ’62 and Sara Bliss Enders ’66 Nominator: Linda Bliss Regel ’62.