August 14, 2015


Two years ago, an ischemic stroke came calling on Bobby Harmon of Steep Falls, Maine. As it turns out, it picked the wrong guy to mess with. Harmon and his brother, Dennis, co-own C.W. Harmon Excavating of Standish, Maine, and neither is one to back away from a challenge. "Bobby won't let a stroke stand in the way of doing what he wants to do—and what he wants to do is run an excavator for our family business. He says he's going to beat this thing, and I like his odds here." In fact, Harmon has already beaten the odds.


Although C.W. Harmon Excavating worked mostly with a competitor's excavators, the staff of Deere dealer Nortrax had heard the news about Harmon's stroke and his ongoing rehabilitation. "The construction community is tight here in southern Maine, so everybody hears everything—good and bad," says salesman Dana Milair. Fortunately, he and his co-workers had an excellent idea.

"The Deere Training Center has developed a great excavator simulator that incorporates an actual seat, excavator- or backhoe-style controls—both hand and foot—and an onscreen real-world environment for an operator to work through and develop their skill. We use the simulator for trade shows and customer training, but we came up with the idea of offering it to assist in Bobby's rehabilitation when it's not otherwise in use."

Harmon's therapy team immediately saw the potential benefits of adding the simulator to his rehab regimen. "The biggest challenge for an occupational therapist is to make the treatment relevant to the patient. And I've never seen an exercise more relevant than one that so closely simulates the patient’s actual job tasks than this simulator John Deere has developed. As soon as we arranged to have it moved into his hospital room, I saw Bobby's dedication to rehabilitation increase dramatically."

At-Home Heroics

A few months after being discharged from the rehabilitation facility, Harmon became dissatisfied with his progress. "No matter what I tried, I just couldn't keep my mind on it like I did the simulator," he says. "So, I called Nortrax and asked if we could maybe rent the machine from them. They wouldn't hear of that, and my good friend Dana pulled up in my driveway with the simulator. And I've worked out on it every day since."


Despite the challenges past and future, Harmon believes he has many blessings—especially his wife, Tammy; his son, Chandler; his brother, Dennis; his dad, Clarence, and the rest of their family. “I’d have to add Dana and the people at Deere to that list. It’s humbling when so many rally to your side and help you when the chips are down.

"My wife is amazing. She held my head in the Special Care Unit of Maine Medical Center and sang to me—"God gave me you for the ups and downs." In August, Tammy and I went to a wedding and danced to that song. It was the best, most uplifting thing that ever happened to me. I'm a lucky man."

Indeed you are, Bobby. See you on the jobsite.