By the Bay

Harry Wolf of Morro Bay celebrates a long life well-lived

Special to The TribuneFebruary 10, 2014 

Judy Salamacha

Morro Bay’s Harry K. Wolf celebrated his 105th birthday last month.

His daughters, Vicki Ryal and Jacqueline Bode, hosted 70 guests at Carla’s Country Kitchen and served Wolf’s favorite comfort food — hot dogs with sauerkraut, chili beans and potato and macaroni salads. He greeted everyone with a smile and a firm handshake even if he couldn’t hear their good wishes.

His life’s passions were teaching electronics, amateur radio, photography and traveling worldwide with his wife, Nathalie.

Wolf was born on a farm in Paso Robles, but he was destined for a career in education. He moved to the family’s “little cabin in Morro Bay” in 1942 and taught navigation to U.S. Navy pilots, and physics and electrical engineering at Cal Poly for 31 years. He recounted memories of past times in a self-published autobiography titled “The Oak Tree.”

For example, in 1920 he saw Morro Bay for the first time at age 11. Friends brought him by wagon over York Mountain to dig for clams. It took half a day, so they camped overnight. He remembers seeing hundreds of clams on the beach. Fondly, he recounts buying his first car, a Model-T Ford, for $15 in 1931. Longer trips required water bags.

A skill that Wolf used during grain harvesting was sack sewing. He has demonstrated his two-bag per minute proficiency at North County pioneer events. His father’s three-wheel grain harvester was pulled by 27 horses. They owned 10 and borrowed 17.

Wolf received his bachelor of arts degree at North Arizona State Teachers College in 1933, his master’s degree in 1941 and doctorate in 1962.

When Cal Poly needed professors to establish an engineering and technology program in Zambia and Tanzania, Wolf volunteered. He secretly wanted to photograph Victoria Falls. He and Nathalie traveled around the world nine times. They resided in Africa and Hong Kong while he consulted in electronics. They visited Nepal to see Mount Everest and he photographed Nathalie fishing at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Early in the space program, Wolf helped develop technical language to operate the spacecraft, according to his daughter Ryal.

“Dad would say ‘If we’re off a little, we’ll miss the moon,’ ” she said.

Wolf wrote that he and electronics aged together: “I was never away from amateur radio … the electronics of the day.” He received his first radio in 1922. When the Wolfs divided their residency between Florida and Morro Bay, he always had a radio. He still “hams” daily and attends local meetings.

An education advocate, Wolf sponsors annual scholarships for Morro Bay High School and Cuesta College students. He’s especially pleased if the recipient elects to study electrical engineering.

Judy Salamacha’s column is special to The Tribune. Reach her at or 801-1422.

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