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Memorials: Bellingham Friends Meeting

Howard Leroy Harris

Date of birth

Oct. 9, 1917

Date of death

Nov. 6, 2014


Bellingham Friends Meeting

Memorial minute

Lifelong Friend and peacemaker Howard Leroy Harris passed away at home in Bellingham, with loving family members around him, on November 6, 2014. He was 97. An ecumenical memorial service on December 13 was hosted by the family and the Bellingham Friends Meeting, of which Howard had been an active attender for more than 40 years, and a member since June 2006. The memorial service was held at the First Congregational Church in Bellingham.

Howard was born October 9, 1917, to Leroy and Leona (Miller) Harris in Hereford, Texas, where his Quaker parents and grandparents were pioneering wheat farmers in the Texas panhandle. When he was two years old they moved back to Iowa. There he grew up on the farm that had been bought by his grandparents in 1887.

In addition to the Center Friends Church his family attended near Newton, Iowa, throughout his childhood, Howard was a member or attender at numerous Friends Meetings, including: Springdale Meeting at Scattergood Friends School in Iowa; Hartford Friends Meeting in Connecticut; University Friends Meeting in Wichita, KS; Xenia Friends Church in Xenia, OH; Glens Falls Friends Meeting in Glens Falls, NY; Detroit and Ann Arbor Friends Meetings in Michigan; and San Fernando Friends Meeting in Sylmar, CA.

An able student, Howard acquired degrees from the University of Iowa, the University of Missouri, and Hartford Theological Seminary. As a lifelong Quaker, he was a conscientious objector in World War II.

Howard met Rosemary Crist in 1943 when they were both working at the American Friends Service Committee work camp at Flanner House in Indianapolis, Indiana. They were married there in May of that year. During the summer of 1943 they took a 600-mile honeymoon bicycle trip through Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.

Peacemaking and war resistance informed and activated Howard's entire life. Childrearing without punishment and education that enhances natural creativity and curiosity also became major concerns, growing out of both anthropological research and the Quaker experience of spiritual growth.

Howard taught botany at Friends University in Wichita, Kansas, for three years, spent five years in the pastoral ministry in Congregational and Friends churches, and six years counseling at Whitman Junior High school in Livonia, Michigan. He taught anthropology for three years at San Fernando Valley State College (now California State University at Northridge), and in 1966 became Associate Professor of Anthropology at Western Washington State College (now Western Washington University). He continued in this position until his gradual retirement 1986-1992. He continued to teach correspondence courses in anthropology until the summer of 2014. Teaching anthropology gave him great satisfaction. He often said that he was fortunate to get paid for doing what he loved to do anyway. During his long quasi-retirement, Howard penned several self-published books about his philosophy, life experiences, and cross-cultural research on childrearing practices.

In December of 1966, he and Rosemary, along with a friend, started the weekly peace vigil in downtown Bellingham, which still continues today. In 2005 he was the first recipient of the Whatcom Peace and Justice Center's Howard Harris Lifetime Peacemaker Award, named in his honor.

Also a lifelong conservationist, Howard took joy in hiking and backpacking, especially in mountainous terrain. In a pamphlet on the meaning of love in Quaker thought, Howard wrote: “The love of a neighbor and the love of the natural world are not separable. To seek the good life is to love mountain vistas, the rich soil and vegetation of the gardens and fields that feed us, and the women and men … who are not just our neighbors but our sisters and brothers.”

Howard was preceded in death by Rosemary, on January 1, 2009. Their granddaughter, Anna Rosemary Harris, died April 2, 2013. Howard is survived by his sister, Fern Glass of Tallassee, Alabama; his six children: David Harris; Heather Harris Ezrre (Andrew); Holly Harris; Timothy Harris (Ellen), and Stanley Harris (Karen) all of Bellingham; and Stephen Harris (Margaret) of Newton, Iowa; grandchildren: Sophia Harris, Emily Harris, Geoffrey Harris (Jennifer), Nicholas Harris, Althea Harris, Thomas Harris, Alexander Harris and Violet Harris, all of Bellingham; and Elizabeth Harris, Katharine Harris, Benjamin Harris (Roslyn) and Mary Chatfield (David) of Iowa; and eight great-grandchildren; as well as numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins.

Memorial gifts may be sent to the Whatcom Peace and Justice Center, P.O. Box 2444, Bellingham, WA 98227; The American Friends Service Committee 1501 Cherry St., Philadelphia, PA 19102; or The Friends Committee on National Legislation, 245 Second St. NE, Washington, DC 20002.