Harry Kannasto, of Ashland, Ore. passed away February 17, 2014 at Rogue Regional Medical Center. He was 83. He was born in Ashland in 1930 to parents John and Mary Kannasto, one of the family's thirteen children.
Harry attended Ashland schools, Southern Oregon College, and the University of Oregon. He held Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in Education, and was a band director for 34 years, 17 years in the Phoenix/Talent district, and 17 years in the Medford district. He was past president of the Southern Oregon Music Educators' Association and a member of the Northwest Bandmasters Association.
Harry met his future wife, Shirley O'Brien, singing in the choir at SOC. They were married in Reno, Nev. in 1952. They both retired from teaching in 1986 and were active volunteers for many organizations.
He played quarterback at Ashland High School, SOC, and U of O, and remained an avid football fan his entire life. He was a member of the Elks, Lions Club, Masons, Shriners, and the Ashland Men's Garden Club.
Harry began to learn to play the trumpet at age eight. He joined the Ashland City Band while in junior high and played with the band for 64 summers. During college he formed and directed a 12-piece dance band. In the ensuing years he performed with the Southern Oregon Concert Band, Rogue Valley Wind Ensemble, the Sauerkrauts German Band, and was the founder/leader of the Swing Kings, a 17-member Big Band. He also performed with the Ashland Brass Quintet and numerous Dixieland bands.
Harry was preceded in death by his parents; his brothers, William, Eugene, Otto, and Fred Kannasto; and his sisters, Helen Patrick, Dolly DeSantis, Gladys Gerleve, Edythe King, and Martha Kannasto. He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Shirley; daughter, Sherril Kannasto Wood (William); granddaughter, Julie Melano (Sigifredo); step-grandson, Sebastian Jaross; brother, Raymond Kannasto (Marian); and numerous nieces and nephews.
Harry loved animals and enjoyed traveling, camping, and gardening. Neighbors and passers-by have often remarked upon the Kannastos' beautiful yard full of flowers.
A memorial service will be held at 1:00 p.m. Friday, March 14, 2014 at the First United Methodist Church of Ashland. Memorial contributions may be made to the SOU Foundation, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland, OR 97520, designated for the Harry Kannasto Music Scholarship fund.
He was a devoted husband, father, and grandfather, and a compassionate and generous friend. He will be missed by many.