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Leonard B. Harmon, Class of 1936

Leonard B. Harmon, a retired insurance company owner and championship bridge player who lived on Jason’s Lane in East Hampton and who was awarded the Purple Heart for an eye injury during World War II, died at home on Nov. 27. The cause was heart failure and stroke, his family said. He was 93.
For more than 50 years, Mr. Harmon ran the Alva Agency, which sold insurance in the United States and South America. Originally in New York City, Mr. Harmon moved the company to East Hampton when he and his wife, the late Marion Harmon, decided to settle here full time in the 1980s. For a time he ran the company from an office on Pantigo Road in East Hampton.

In the 1950s and ’60s, Mr. Harmon had been one of the bridge world’s leading players, becoming Life Master Number 600 in 1953. With Ivar Stakgold, he won the 1958 open pairs spring and summer national championships. Press coverage included a 1959 Sports Illustrated story.

Bridge accolades and trophies continued, with a Reisinger Trophy at the Bermuda Bowl in 1959. That year, he was part of the second-place team at the World Bridge Championships and was voted bridge player of the year, having won four national championships during 1958-9: Reisinger Board-a-Match, the Vanderbilt, the Open Pairs, and the Spingold.

He was born in New York City on Sept. 14, 1919, to Marcel Horowitz and the former Adele Ornstein and grew up there and in Paris. He attended Townsend Harris High School in New York City and New York University, where he majored in French.

After college, his father invited him to join his insurance business, but Mr. Harmon declined. His first job, he told an interviewer in 2007, was interrupted by World War II. Figuring he was likely to be drafted into the Army infantry, he enlisted and was trained as an Army Air Force bombardier.

During a bombing run over France in 1942, an anti-aircraft round struck the nose of his bomber, breaking the Plexiglas nose cone. A fragment of it went into his left eye and knocked him unconscious. In the 2007 interview, Mr. Harmon said that medical care for his injuries was delayed five hours until the aircraft landed in England. In addition to the Purple Heart, he was awarded the Conspicuous Service Cross. On his way back to the United States from England on a month-long voyage, Mr. Harmon said, he passed time playing cards — winning about $1,000.

After successfully petitioning for a discharge, Mr. Harmon began selling life insurance and playing bridge competitively. He and Marian Sanders married in 1963, and lived on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. In 1974, they bought a house in Northwest Woods, East Hampton. He sold his share of the business in 1992. Ms. Harmon died in 2003.

With his wife, Mr. Harmon was a member of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the South Fork, serving on its board and finance committee.

His family said that those who knew him recognized him as a “skilled storyteller, killer word games player, and crossword puzzler.”

“If they knew him a bit longer, they would also realize that he was a supporter of so many charitable causes it would take pages to list.”

Donations in his memory have been suggested to any South Fork organization that helps those in need.

Mr. Harmon was cremated and his ashes will be spread in East Hampton as he had wished. A memorial will be announced.

Reprinted from the Easthampton Star, December 20, 2012.