George Harkness, 96, founded pest control firm in McDonough

For years, George Harkness had toiled for a national pest control company, so he thought he could provide a better, more efficient service.

In 1961, he started his own business. Today, Harkness Pest Control Inc. of McDonough serves homes and businesses across metro Atlanta.

“He had customers scattered all over the place — Buckhead, Walton, DeKalb,” said his son, Robert Harkness of McDonough. “It didn’t make any difference where. Any customer who called, he’d do it.” As the oldest son, Robert Harkness was supposed to take over the business, but instead he enjoyed a decades-long career in customer service at Delta Air Lines. His younger brother, Kenneth Harkness of McDonough, took over the reigns in 1978.

“First, he sold me my own service route, which was an easy transition,” said his son, who always had worked in the business. “Of course, a lot of his customers have died, but families have stayed with us. I’ve never really had to advertise. Owning a business was my father’s dream. He was tired of working for other people, so he chose to do it his way.”

George Franklin Harkness, 96, of McDonough died Friday from complications of dementia at Westbury Health and Rehabilitation Center in McDonough. The funeral is 2 p.m. Monday in the chapel of Cannon-Cleveland Funeral Directors, which is in charge of arrangements.

Mr. Harkness was born in McDonough, one of three sons. He had a variety of jobs before he attended aircraft mechanic school and worked at Bell Aircraft during World War II. He opened his first business — the Huddle Grill off North Avenue near Georgia Tech — in 1947.

“Some of the students would come over and work just for a meal,” said his son, Robert Harkness.

In 1951, Mr. Harkness sold the restaurant and worked a few other jobs before Orkin hired him. He worked there nine years as well as another pest control company before founding his own operation. Years later, he helped a church friend, Terry Parsons, launch a pest control business.

“He helped me start my business in 1986 and stayed involved with me until he was 88,” said Mr. Parsons, owner of GTA Services in Loganville. “He had a basic philosophy on how to do good business: Charge a fair price, do a good job, be dependable, and you’ll have all the business you can stand.”

Mr. Harkness appreciated family as well as hard work.

“I’ve seen him work all day, then come home and cut the grass,” Robert Harkness said. “Then he’d go to my cousin’s house — they had four boys — and cut their hair. It was always important for him to help.”

Additional survivors include a daughter, Nancy Harkness Kelly of Winston-Salem, N.C.; six grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.