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Thieves Can’t Take Survivor’s Spirit They Cleaned Harland Lindner Out But Left A Heart Of Gold Behind

Wed., Dec. 10, 1997

Crossing the state for a hospital stay is bad enough. But when Harland Lindner returned from a week of tests in Seattle after a stroke, he found his home stripped.

Thieves shattered the back door of his North Side home and stole everything. They took the silver he and his late wife had bought 50 years ago. They stole amethysts, garnets and sapphires Lindner had cut and polished himself.

The fireplace insert was gone; so were tables and chairs and lamps. The washer and dryer had been dragged up narrow stairs and hauled away. The thieves even peeled up the rug.

Lindner’s son discovered the damage Friday. But this week, his father smiled and joked and tried to shrug it off.

“As the Lord says, ‘Forgive your enemies, your debts and debtors,”’ said the 74-year-old. “And I believe that.”

Listening to Lindner, his life sounds like the Book of Job: Six weeks ago, he had a stroke. He’s had heart attacks and surgeries. He said he’s been robbed at knife-point. In 1994, his wife of 49 years died of a heart attack. Gunman Dean Mellberg shot and killed his daughter-inlaw that same year at Fairchild Air Force Base. In 1990, a tree fell on him while he was chopping firewood. He said shrapnel blew him out of World War II.

He even claims - and his son vouches for him - that he’s been struck by lightning three times.

“He’s got the constitution of an elephant, I tell ya,” said Warren Sallis, Lindner’s friend of 40 years.

His friends at Audubon Park United Methodist Church say Lindner has a reputation for helping others. Now they’re trying to help him.

The Rev. Keat Yeoh said he doesn’t know what the church will do, but members started planning to help as soon as they heard about the heist.

“My phone’s been ringing off the hook. I haven’t gotten any rest,” church member Helene Gurnea said. “(People) are just terribly sorry and shocked it would happen to a nice guy like him. … Incensed is the word.”

Gurnea said Lindner was a savior during the 1996 ice storm power outages. For six days, he circulated two generators among four households.

“He just keeps going,” she said.

Church member Anna Bosch said he often helps the elderly with household chores such as plumbing. “You know, a handyman.”

Sallis is especially mad that his friend was robbed just before the holidays. “He’s had a heckuva time, man.” He added sarcastically: “How can people be so thoughtful this time of year?”

Lindner is a retired executive for the Boy Scouts. County Commissioner Phil Harris worked as one, too, during the ‘70s.

“He just had a reputation for being a big ol’ friendly guy that was bald-headed,” Harris said. Lindner pretty much designed and built a cabin at Camp Cowles all alone, Harris said. “Harland’s a workhorse. He’s just work-work-work-work-work.”

He loves the outdoors - camping and Scouting and hunting for stones. Despite the burglary, some of his polished pieces - loose gems, a belt buckle, a bolo tie, a giant slice of petrified tree - are still his.

It was that love of being outside and zeal for helping that resulted in internal injuries in 1990.

Sallis said that when the tree fell on Lindner that autumn, he was part of a group of church members who were chopping wood for the needy. “It just mashed him into the ground. If the ground wasn’t so soft, it would have killed him … it was just like somebody made his imprint in the ground.”

Lindner said he was standing on a slope, watching his just-cut tree slant into a fall. Then he slipped, landing beneath. “Perfect timing,” Lindner said wryly.

His doctor at the Spokane Veterans Affairs Medical Clinic refused to discuss Lindner’s injuries.

Lindner’s son, Rande Lindner, said his father’s character inspired and strengthened him after his first wife, Anita, was killed by Airman Dean Mellberg in June 1994. Mellberg killed four people during the shooting rampage at Fairchild.

“I respect my dad quite a bit,” Rande said. “That’s our family attitude, service to others.”

On Monday, the elder Lindner talked about the robbery and got red and angry only briefly. That’s when he thinks about the silver, and the jewelry he made for his wife, now gone like her.

He has insurance, but it doesn’t cover everything. And even if it did, “the sentimental part of it is not there. Not 50 years’ use.”

Then it was back to Scouts and his wife and a joke, fittingly, about a cannon ball stuntman. He was “hired and fired in the same day. But they had to hire him again, because they couldn’t find another man of his caliber.”

Unlike his dad, son Rande vents wrath toward the burglars. “I’ll tell you, when it comes to lowlifes, these are lowlifes. I don’t think they have any concern for the (holiday) season.”

But despite his father’s litany of woe, Rande isn’t surprised he’s active and upbeat.

“I think the only time he’ll slow down is when they force him to get into the coffin.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo


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