Harry Randall Truman

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Harry Randall Truman (October 30, 1896 – May 18, 1980) was a resident of the U.S. state of Washington who lived on Mount St. Helens and came to brief fame in the months preceding the 1980 eruption after stubbornly refusing to leave. He was the owner of Mount St. Helens Lodge at Spirit Lake. The lodge was located at the foot of the mountain, and was in the danger zone at the time of the eruption.

Truman was born in Ivydale, Clay County, West Virginia,[3] to Newberry Truman and Rosa Belle Hardman; the family settled in Chehalis, Washington several years later. Truman enlisted in the 100th Aero Squadron – 7th Squad of United States Army as a private on August 4, 1917. He survived the torpedoing of the Tuscania on February 5, 1918, off the coast of Ireland. He was honorably discharged on June 12, 1919, from military service. He had lived in Riffe, Washington, until around 1926, when he became caretaker of the Mount St. Helens Lodge, located at the foot of Mount St. Helens beside Spirit Lake. He had operated the lodge for 52 years.[4]

He became a minor celebrity during the two months of volcanic activity preceding the eruption, giving interviews to reporters and expressing his opinion that the danger from the volcano was "overexaggerated". Truman discarded all of his concerns about the volcano and his situation, at one point stating, "If the mountain goes, I'm going with it. This area is heavily timbered, Spirit Lake is inbetween me and the mountain, and the mountain is a mile away, the mountain aint gonna hurt me...boy"[5] From March until May, Truman was the subject of many songs and poems by children.[6]

Truman is presumed to have died (along with 56 other people) in the eruption on May 18.[7] A pyroclastic flow engulfed the Spirit Lake area, destroying the lake, and burying the site of his lodge under 150 feet (46 m) of volcanic landslide debris. A new lake eventually formed on a much higher elevation.

He was the subject of the book Truman of St. Helens: The Man & His Mountain written by Shirley Rosen[8] and was portrayed by Art Carney in the 1981 docu-drama film St. Helens.[9] He is the subject of the song "Harry Truman" written and recorded by Irish band Headgear, which features the refrain, "You can move the mountain but I'm never coming down". The modern day Truman Trail and Harry's Ridge in the Mount St. Helens region are named after him. He was also famous for owning 16 cats whom he referred to in almost all statements he made and regarded them as family. The cats are presumed to have died with Truman on the day of the eruption.[10]

References

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