WW2 Veteran, Business Owner, Amateur Boxer of Manchester NH, the Polish Flash: Jan Zacharko aka John Harko (1906-1997)

Photograph of John Harko from the Boston (MA) Herald newspaper of 24 January 1925.

Manchester New Hampshire has long been a city built by immigrants. From the early settlers to the mill workers, most of them arrived to the area only a generation or two from an ancestor from another continent. In the very early 20th century there was an influx of people from eastern and middle European countries. Between 1901 and 1910 it is estimated that Austrians were one of the ten most significant immigrant groups in the United States.

One of these families that arrived during this time, was that of John Harko. His name at immigration was Jan Zacharko, born 1 January 1906 in “Debromil, Austria.” Today this is Dobrómyl, a city in Staryi Sambir Raion, Lviv Oblast, Ukraine, located about 5 kilometers away from Poland’s border. His petition to become a citizen states that he entered the US on the S S Chemitz, North German Lloyd Line ship on 24 August 1907. At that time he used the name Jan Zacharko, and it was stated that his permanent residence was to be Galveston Texas. He had arrived as a baby not quite 2 years old, with his parents, John & Anna (Hnatio) Zacharko [Editor’s note: his marriage record states his parents names were John & Mary (Poltak) Zacharko].

John Harko fought the best of the featherweight boxers from 1926 to 1936 and then trained the best of them as an instructor from 1942 to 1945. Then later he refereed while running a tire retreading business at 569 Elm Street Manchester NH (shown here).

By 1910 his family had moved to Manchester NH. The Manchester City Library web site says that as a young man growing up in Manchester NH he graduated from the Franklin Street Grammar School. Among his many occupations was one of chauffeur (from information on his marriage certificate), and according to his obituary “he operated a tire company in Manchester and was also the owner-operator of Harko Construction Co.”

John Harko signed a declaration of intention to become a citizen at the Hillsborough County Superior Court in 1928, and then in 1932 he petitioned to become a United States citizen (which was granted).   During WWII he served in the United States Navy, with the rank of MOMM 1/C USNR, the same sort of assignment my father had, though I don’t know what ship John served on.  MOMM means he was a machinist’s mate, good working with machines, engines, and other equipment.

John Harko from a promotion poster courtesy of Paul Piecinoga. Used with permission.

From book Manchester [NH] Yesterday and Today

John Harko’s favorite hobby was that of glass blowing, and reportedly he used sand from the shores of Lakes Massabesic to create amazing pitchers and flower vases prized today by collectors [It is noted in several places that he never sold these pieces, but rather gave them away to friends]. Three of his pitchers can be seen in the Manchester Library New Hampshire Room (upstairs). The blog “At Home in New Hampshire” has additional close up photographs of John Harko’s glass work.

Some how in his busy life, John Harko also found time to be a much acclaimed amateur boxer “who held the New England Featherweight boxing champion title twice.”  I was fortunate to hunt down a photograph of him  which announces him as being a “bantamweight” contender, and also obtained permission from Paul Piecinoga to use a scan of his collectible boxing postor featuring Harko.

John Harko with awards.

John Harko married on 26 Sep 1925 at Manchester NH to Mary Turko, daughter of John and Ethel (Ochrimovich) Turko.  They lived long and happy lives in Manchester New Hampshire, but did not have any children.  They are buried next to each other in Pine Grove Cemetery in Manchester.

My thanks to John P. & Irene Jordan /and/ Janet Foster Barber of the FaceBook Group ‘Things I Remember Growing Up in Manchester for inspiring me to research John Harko and to write his story.


An Incomplete Memoir, by Charles L. McGranahan,

Hanlon vs Harko poster from the collection of Paul Piecinoga. Used with permission.

page 56-57

The Difference Between Professional and Amateur Boxers

Boxing Weight Classes – Wikipedia (i.e. bantamweight vs featherweight)

New Hampshire Harko Glass at Manchester (NH) Public Library web site

Blog: At Home in New Hampshire, a story mostly about John Harko’s Glass


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5 Responses to WW2 Veteran, Business Owner, Amateur Boxer of Manchester NH, the Polish Flash: Jan Zacharko aka John Harko (1906-1997)

  1. Amy says:

    Very interesting!

  2. Ginny Young-White says:

    Nice article. Also around that same time and boxing in the bantam catagory was my sisters father-inlaw. Labore. But I’ll be darned if I can remember his first name. Anyway, that’s my two cents worth.
    Ginny Young-White

  3. Janet Barter says:

    Possibly Eddie Labore?

  4. Andrew Parnell says:

    Mr & Mrs Harko lived at Crystal Lake. I lived across the lake on “Kilonisis side”. We would swim across to the Harko property and climb out on their stairs. Mary would feed the fish and turtles. We would be on the lookout for BIG mud snappers that stayed around their little beach.
    John and Mary were always of a good nature and friendly. I know I have been in their home on numerous occasions but my memory has faded and I can’t see the inside. I know it was very modern.
    Across the street was Six Acres.

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