Hometown Hero: Export man survived military parachuting accident, left Scouting legacy

Sep. 17—(Editor's note: This is part of a series about Westmoreland County residents who have been honored as Hometown Heroes. The program honors local military and non-military heroes by displaying photos on decorative banners in area communities.)

Robert Harouse



Robert Harouse didn't talk much about his military service during the 1950s, as a U.S. Army airborne paratrooper. When he did, it was usually about a pretty serious mishap.

"He was doing maneuvers in Greenland, and when he jumped, his parachute didn't open, from what I understand," said his wife, Margaret Harouse of Export. "Luckily, he landed in a big snow bank, but he broke his leg and lost several teeth."

Harouse was born Oct. 12, 1934, and grew up in Export. He joined the Army in 1953, by which time the Korean War was winding down, with armistice talks starting in late 1951, breaking down, and beginning again in early 1953.

With a strong desire to continue his role as a paratrooper, Harouse said her husband was so angry about his injury that he refused to write home.

"His parents knew he'd been injured, but they had to write the Red Cross to find out what hospital he was at," she said.

After his injury, Robert was assigned to desk duty and wasn't permitted to continue doing jumps with his unit.

"He was the company clerk because he'd taken typing in high school," Harouse said.

The two met after Robert return home from military service, when they were both attending school at Slippery Rock.

"My roommate and I were student-teaching at the time, and we were assigned to the same (dining hall) table as some of the veteran students," she said. "He was at my table and that's how we met. Often times, we'd share the newspaper in one of the common rooms near our dining hall."

Robert was also very active in the local Boy Scouts organization, but was killed in a crash on the way to a scouting event when his son was just six years old.

His wife ended up taking up his leadership role.

"I went to Greensburg, got the kit and I started Cub Scout Troop No. 213 at our house," Harouse said. "It was a lot of work because we had enough kids for three separate packs. I ended up finding two other mothers to help me out."

Cub Scout Pack No. 213 is still based out of Export today.

And while his military injury kept from him parachuting, it didn't keep him from being active later in life. Harouse said she fondly recalls her husband's love for sports, especially swimming.

"He taught a swimming class at Hempfield for adults," she said. "He also went to the National Aquatic School and graduated from there, and he could train lifeguards to work at a pool."

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick by email at pvarine@triblive.com or via Twitter .