John Harkins Jr., 75, A Champion Sprinter

Posted: June 27, 1992

John P. Harkins Jr., 75, a champion sprinter at West Catholic High School in the 1930s and a champion of charitable causes with the Knights of Columbus in later years, died Wednesday at his home in Morton.

"He ate, slept and breathed the Knights of Columbus and West Catholic and Notre Dame," said his daughter, Helene Cahoone. "Everybody associated him with those three things."

In 1992, Mr. Harkins, who lived in Clifton Heights for 37 years, was presented with the Fritz Brennan Loyalty Award, given annually to an outstanding alumnus of West Catholic.

Mr. Harkins clearly earned the award. He was active with the West Catholic Burrs' Alumni Association, and in the 55 years since his graduation, he did not miss a reunion until last fall when he was too sick to attend.

And he never stopped working with the Knights of Columbus. "He was out all the time at a meeting or a pre-meeting," his daughter said. Or he was running fund-raising events or performing other charity work, such as supervising games or cooking for the country fair held every fall for the Regina Mundi Priory, a home for handicapped nuns that was one of his favorite charities.

Born in Philadelphia, Mr. Harkins placed his name in his school's sports- record books when he anchored the West Catholic 880-yard relay team that won the national championship at the University of Notre Dame from 1934 through 1936.

He was the Catholic League city champion in the 100-yard and 220-yard dashes in 1935 and 1936, when he was captain of the track team.

In all, he won four varsity letters in track and two in football, playing as a halfback and fullback on the West Catholic teams in 1934 and 1935.

Those national championships at Notre Dame turned him into an ardent follower of the Fighting Irish football team. "He always kept a schedule and never missed a game on television," his daughter said.

His sports career ended when he graduated from high school and went to work, first spending 25 years as a driver and salesman for Service Laundry Co. of Philadelphia and then 10 years as a painter for Upper Darby Township. After he retired in 1979, he was a school-crossing guard at Bishop Avenue and Springfield Road in Upper Darby.

Mr. Harkins also placed his name in the annals of the Knights of Columbus, which he joined in 1957 and served for more than 30 years.

After becoming a fourth-degree Knight in the Cardinal Dougherty Assembly in 1959, Mr. Harkins held many offices, including grand knight of the De LaSalle 590 Council from 1964 through 1966 and president of the Association of Sir Knights in 1970 and 1971.

In 1990, he was chosen from all the knights of the Cardinal Dougherty Assembly as Sir Knight of the Year.

Mr. Harkins also was a member of Holy Cross Church in Springfield, Delaware County, for 37 years.

In addition to his daughter, he is survived by his wife, CatharineGreen Harkins; a son, John P. 3d, and two grandchildren.

A viewing will be held from 10 to 11 a.m. today at Holy Cross Church, Bishop and Springfield Roads, Springfield. A Mass of Christian Burial will be said at 11 a.m at the church. Burial will be at SS. Peter and Paul Cemetery, Marple Township.

Memorial gifts in Mr. Harkin's name may be made to Little Flower Manor, Springfield Road, Darby, Pa. 19023, or to Regina Mundi Priory, Waterloo Road, Devon, Pa. 19333.

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