Howard Harris Dies - More Testimonials Added

By On
• In People, War & Peace,

Posted Nov 9

Howard Harris, lifetime Friend, founder of the Whatcom Peace Vigil at the Federal Building during the Vietnam War, and first recipient of the Howard L. Harris Lifetime Peacemaker Award, died peacefully in his sleep on Thursday, Nov. 6 at home, with family members around him. He was 97. His faithful presence in worship will be deeply missed for a long time to come.

The Harris family has asked the Friends to help organize a memorial service for him. (No date yet.) Note: NWCitizen will post info when available.

Please hold Howard and his family in the Light.

Updated Nov 12.

OBITUARY - Howard Leroy Harris

Howard Leroy Harris was born on October 9, 1917 to Leroy and Leona (Miller) Harris at Hereford, Texas, where his parents and grandparents were pioneering wheat farmers in the Texas “panhandle.” When he was two years old they moved back to Iowa where he grew up on the farm that had been bought by his grandparents in 1887. He acquired degrees from the University of Iowa, the University of Missouri, and Hartford Theological Seminary. A life-long Quaker, he was a conscientious objector in world War II and peacemaking and war resistance was a theme that informed and activated his entire life. Child rearing without punishment, and education that enhances natural creativity and curiosity instead of regimented schooling, became a major concern in his life, growing out of both anthropological research and the Quaker experience of spiritual growth.

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, and 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.

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), and 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. A life-long conservationist, hiking and backpacking, especially in mountainous terrain, was a major joy. The photo included in this obituary was taken on his 97th birthday up at Artist Point near Mt. Baker. In December of 1966 he and Rosemary, along with a friend, started the Peace Vigil in downtown Bellingham, which still continues today. In 2005 he was the first recipient of the Howard Harris Lifetime Peacemaker Award, named in his honor.

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

A memorial service will be held at 2:00 on Saturday, December 13 at the First Congregational Church in Bellingham. 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.

You can share your memories and leave a comment - or just read the comments - at the Whatcom Cremation and Funeral website.

Also on Nov 12, we are adding these testimonials.

Barbara Z. Rofkar:
Howard Harris was always a teacher, mentor guide for behavior on how one becomes a truly authentic human being! He taught with a love for humanity no matter where one was born or the culture in which they were raised. He saw the value of all ‘souls’ to which the creator gave life and he would protect their right to exist. He did this through the respect he exhibit toward nature, children, students, adults or anyone who would engage in real discussion not just diatribe for a certain ideology. He was my professor at WWU for a number of classes which engaged us in a way that would encourage one to explore one's beliefs using the critical measurement of putting oneself into another's shoes. His intention was to allow our experiences to become the wisdom for a world we would work to create in the image of what we wanted for humanity. Competition was challenging ourselves to live what we believed. When my mind goes to who Howard was, the first thoughts are humane, gentle and a fierce believer in the potential of humanity to be a force for good toward the world and each other.

James Loucky:
Howard's understanding of the need to listen to children colored his broader views of how a peaceful world is possible. He saw how punishing related to wider violence in society, and even to the ultimate violence of war. Never a harsh word, never a loud voice, and to his last days grateful. He walked Ptarmagin Ridge nearly into his 80s, graciously spoke to classes when invited, especially to share his learning and love of children.

Shirley Osterhaus:
I knew Howard at Western Washington University as a professor with a long and steadfast commitment to non-violence and a history of doing conscientious objection counseling. After having taken training in CO counseling myself, my more direct connection of working with him was at the start of the Iraq war in 2003 when many of the young college students feared a draft and we were meeting with lots of young men wanting to start their paperwork for CO. Then of course, I was always inspired in seeing him at the Peace Vigil in front of the Federal Building that he began during the Viet Nam war. I don't recall how many years ago this was but he was definitely up there in years (maybe 5-6 years ago), that I saw him with members of his family slowly hiking up at Artist's Point and I thought—wow—I want to be doing this at that age too. I believed he hiked a lot and loved the mountains and outdoors.

Ellen Murphy
Two men who knew each other well, and were beloved and beautiful elders and teachers to the Bellingham community, have recently passed on. Tom Hall, a physician, and Howard Harris, a professor of anthropology, were both Quakers (members of the Religious Society of Friends), who believed in, and lived according to, the force of love, as did the wonderful women in their lives. Tom often expressed his indebtedness to Howard regarding the true principles of the Golden Rule, that is, not just as it is usually heard, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” but as, “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.” Contemplation of this version, self-love and protection included, has the capacity to draw us more deeply into the beautiful uniqueness and needs of the other, and while receiving mutual benefit, releases us from self-interest. The power of love, which is the essence of nonviolence, these mentors taught, leads the way.

Tom would sometimes tear up when talking about the necessity of homo empathicus as the emerging human, and would inevitably go back to Howard’s own words as his source, quoting from Howard’s 2010 book, “Lifetime Peacemaker,” in which Howard devotes a whole chapter to “An Analysis of Love” based upon Greek philosophy. In the context of spouses, but in reference to all relationality, Howard says we can, in meeting each others’ needs, love others “not in spite of their weaknesses, but because of them.”

Howard believed in nonviolent parenting, and was devoted to children and all creation. He gave us an abundance of example as we go on without him and Tom, into an era of endless war and planetary destruction. Some will wonder if a thing called Love can help our needed rapid evolution, our “radical revolution of values,” as their own mentor, Martin Luther King, put it. Howard said that love is an energy we can allow to flow through us by experiencing love “as a decision, not an emotion.” Surely we cannot go far wrong, who are still here, by listening to Howard, and by making that decision.

publisher note:

For more about the Howard Harris peace award, visit Whatcom Peace and Justice Center website. You can view more photos of Howard and Rosemary at a gallery on the peace and justice site.

About John Servais

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Fairhaven, Washington USA • Member since Feb 26, 2008

John started Northwest Citizen in 1995 to inform fellow citizens of serious local political issues that the Bellingham Herald was ignoring. With the help of donors from the beginning, he has [...]