Clovis high school graduate and World War II veteran Walt Harpain’s contributions to the Clovis community are still remembered after passing away.
Harpain, known for his family’s “Harpain’s Dairy Farm”, where they served their community “quality dairy products” according to an article from the Clovis Big Dry Creek Historical Society in 2009 where they recognized the dairy for its “significant nutritional impact.”
“Historically we also acknowledge the cultural impact of, 1939-1977, of Harpain’s Dairy that provided quality milk, excellent customer service and a free family zoo that delighted families and school children,” the article read.
Opened in 1939, the dairy was originally ran by Walt’s father, Rudolph, where they started off with eleven dairy heifers that were described as producing the “richest milk” according to the Clovis Big Dry Creek Historical Society article.
Raised by a father who supported the United States entering World War II, Walt enlisted and served in the 69th Infantry division in the European theater after graduating from Clovis high school in 1943 according to an article from the Clovis Big Dry Creek Historical Society museum detailing Japan’s military and community service.
The article detailed that the dairy became so popular among the community that the “private road to the dairy, east side of Cedar avenue bounded by Dakota avenue, was so well traveled that the City of Fresno displayed it on their city map.”
During his time enlisted, Walt was “near his jeep in jeep during a battle near Giescheid, Germany,” when shrapnel from a tank shell exploding near by entered his back and neck and while he survived remainders of shrapnel remained lodged in his neck for the remainder of his life.
Walt was described as “dedicated” to producing milk as “near to perfection” as possible and while serving his community by providing dairy products, the dairy would also enter their milk into competitions.
According to the article from the Clovis Big Dry Creek Historical Society, the dairy won 55 gold medals at the California State Fair and the Pomona Fair.
“The medals reflected the purity of the milk with low bacteria count and no feed flavor present,” the article read.
In a Fresno Bee article titled “Memories of manure, milk at Harpain’s”, Cathay Crosby reflected on her memories at Harpain’s Dairy Farm.
“At Harpain’s, nice young men in white pants and red-and-white-checked shirts would fill your orders and place the glass bottles in our sturdy wire carrier. Sometimes we were especially lucky and parked in what we called ‘the little place,’ a carport off the side door, and they would carry the milk right out to our car,” Crosby said.
Walt served the Clovis community in a variety of ways outside his dairy, which included serving on a variety of dairy boards, the Dairy Herd Improvement Association, the California Association of Dairymen, and the California Milk Advisory Board.
Walt was also awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his “meritorious” service, according to the Clovis Big Dry Creek Historical Society.