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Harold Brock
Harold Brock (courtesy photo)

Harold L. Brock (1914-2011)

Harold L. Brock of Waterloo, Iowa died peacefully at his home Jan. 2, 2011 at age 96. He was born Nov. 23, 1914, to Edgar and Ada Grace Snedegar Brock in Clarksburg, W.Va., but spent his formative years in the Detroit area.

On June 19, 1937 in Detroit, he married Juliette "Judy" S. Brower, who died Feb. 27, 1990 in Waterloo. He married Kathleen Sheehan in Waterloo on July 1, 1991, and she died April 14, 2010.

Harold was also preceded in death by his sister Mildred Bruce and brother Lynwood Brock. He is survived by his son Robert (Pat) Brock of Waterloo; daughter Barbara Brock, roommate Judy Franzen of New Lenox, Ill.; daughter Kathleen (Jerry) Wilharm of Maryville, Tenn.; four granddaughters: Kathryn "Katie" Olenek, Sara (Matt) Doede, Kari (Bobbi Streeter) Brock-Streeter, and Erin Brock; four great-grandsons: Ryan and Kyle Olenek, Alec and Eric Doede.

Visitation will be 3 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 14 at Locke Funeral Home, Waterloo or condolences may be left at www.LockeFuneralHome.com. A celebration of Harold Brock's life will be held at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, Jan. 15 at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Waterloo with burial at Memorial Park Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to Hawkeye Community College Foundation, the Brock Family Scholarship, Junior Achievement of Eastern Iowa, or to the church.

As a child, Harold Brock's family moved to the Washington D.C. area, then to the Detroit region. In 1929 at age 15, Harold left traditional schooling to enter the Ford Trade and Apprentice School in Dearborn, Mich. There he met founder Henry Ford, who became his mentor and introduced him to the great thinkers and inventors of the day. Harold met or worked with men such as Thomas Edison, George Washington Carver, Harvey Firestone, Luther Burbank, Harry Ferguson, Lee Iacocca, Edsel Ford and Henry Ford II.

Harold began his career at Ford working on car and truck design. By 1938 Mr. Ford chose Harold to spearhead the design and production of the revolutionary Ford 9N tractor, which was accomplished in six months. Harold continued to provide innovations for Ford for over 28 years, except for the World War II years when he turned his focus to the design of the Jeep which was originally Ford's design. He also redesigned the front armor and drive systems for the Sherman tanks.

He joined the design team at the John Deere Tractor Works in Waterloo in 1959. He became the Director of Tractor Research and later the first Worldwide Manager of Product Engineering. He headed the design group for the Deere 4020 tractor, which has influenced tractor design ever since. He retired in February 1980, but served as a global consultant and, in the 1980s, assisted in a joint effort between Deere and Yanmar.

Harold Brock was a past president of SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) and founder of the Mississippi Valley Section of SAE. He was also a member and Fellow of the ASABE (American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers).

Remembering the training and education he received from Ford, in 1965 Harold was one of four community leaders who lobbied the Iowa legislature to establish the Hawkeye Institute of Technology. He was instrumental in building the campus south of Waterloo and later expanding its focus to become Hawkeye Community College. He was involved with the school for 45 years, serving as a member of the Board of Trustees and the Hawkeye Foundation, many of those years as Board Chairman.

He was a founding board member of Junior Achievement in Waterloo, and also was on the board of the Grout Museum, Cedar Valley Hospice and other community organizations. Harold served on numerous state and national committees and advisory boards, including Iowa Work Force Development.

In recent years, Harold focused his energies on sharing the history he had witnessed. He wrote the book "The Fords in My Past" and co-authored or contributed to several books and video projects on the history of tractors and agriculture. He was called on often as a guest speaker for wide-ranging audiences, from fellow engineers and business leaders, to antique collectors and school children.

Much has been written and spoken about Harold Brock's accomplishments. He was well-recognized in the Waterloo region, state of Iowa, nationwide and internationally, receiving numerous awards and honors, including the Cyrus Hall McCormick Jerome Increase Case Gold Medal Award in 2008 and in 2010 an Honorary Doctor of Science Degree from Iowa State University in 2010.

Books, internet blogs, and publications about tractors, agriculture or automotive engineering are filled with references to Harold Brock, using terms like "legend" and "innovator." Folks who actually spoke with Harold recall him as "amazingly accessible" and "humble," while generous with his time and genuine in his interest for others. He lived the philosophies of Henry Ford about reaching out to youth, and continuing to learn to stay young in mind.

Harold's family and friends will remember a quiet, spiritual man who was soft-spoken and gentle. He was a valued source of advice for many with his consistent, confident, and caring views on life's challenges.

He was a man of diverse tastes. He enjoyed shopping on Chicago's State Street but preferred his local K-Mart, which grew from the stores founded in Detroit by his Sunday school teacher, S.S. Kresge. He was at ease in the country club, but looked forward to his next fast-food burger, or the next taco with extra hot sauce. For many years his Christmas dinner table included a large bowl of pinto beans and raw onions to remind the family of their humble beginnings, but guests could also enjoy meat from the grill.

He had a quick wit and a sharp memory, and loved sharing stories of his days with the influential men most people only know from history books. He also enjoyed family fishing trips to Gull Lake in Minnesota, outings to Chicago, and his many trips to Japan, along with an occasional round of golf.

Music was part of Harold's life, whether it was attending concerts involving his children or grandchildren, symphony concerts, barbershop shows, or organ recitals. Throughout much of his life, he entertained himself and family members sitting at the Hammond organ in his home.

In December, he issued his first and only Christmas letter. It focused on his love for his extended family, and gave thanks for those caring for him. He closed his letter by saying "Historians now have a chance to judge my contributions to building a better world for others." Those who knew him say a resounding "Job well done!"

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