HARRIS Jean

Posted: December 8th, 2012

ANNA JEAN HARRIS, beloved wife of Aaron Cale Harris, passed away peacefully at St. Michael’s Health Centre on December 4, 2012 at the age of 85.

She fought an implacable foe with tenacity and grace. She leaves behind a large family and many devoted friends to celebrate her life and mourn her passing. Jean was born to Anna and Percy Murdoch August 31, 1927 in Yakima, Washington. The family returned Canada in 1930, and despite a disagreement with the government in Ottawa, she always considered herself as much a Canadian l as the rest of the family. She was a descendant of Southern Alberta pioneers. The Smiths and Laynes, her mother’s family, were among the first to settle Cardston and Raymond. On her father’s side, the Murdoch family homesteaded near Milk River early in the Twentieth Century and later farmed in Warner and Wilson Siding before moving to Lethbridge. Jean attended Fleetwood School, an institution surrounded 11 months of the year by massive snow drifts through which she led her reluctant younger sisters, Marjorie and Joan, on a daily trek – or so her children were led to believe. During high school and after graduating from the Lethbridge Collegiate Institute (LCI) in 1945, Jean worked for her father at Alberta Poultry Producers (now Lilydale) as an egg grader and on the poultry line. (“It’ll do you good, Kid,” her dad said.) before she moved into the office.  In 1947 she moved to Vallejo, California to live with her mother’s brother and attend college. It was there that she met Tom Westfall. They were married in Lethbridge in 1948. After Tom graduated from the University of California, they moved from Berkeley to Torrance, California. From there, Tom’s job took them to Phoenix and, in the early 1970s, to Houston. While raising three children, Jean was elected President of the school PTA and became actively involved in local Republican politics. In 1964 she campaigned for her neighbor, Barry Goldwater, when he ran for President. In the 1980s she taught school in Houston working with special education students. She and Tom served as foster parents for infants destined for adoption through LDS Children’s Services. She was active in the Relief Society and assumed leadership roles at the ward and stake level wherever she lived.  Tom passed away in 1986, and in 1987 Jean returned to Lethbridge where she was reunited with a mysterious group called the “MDBs,” – eight girls (“chums” from LCI) who have for over 60 years refused divulge the meaning of the name. Under interrogation by husbands, children, even grandchildren, the MDBs have kept the secret. Jean never told. We are left to speculate and remember her Cheshire Cat grin. Among those renewed LCI connections was Cale Harris, a family friend since childhood and a sometime beau in their teen years. Not long after Jean returned to Lethbridge, she and Cale became and “item.” And shortly thereafter it was clear that he was the love of her life, her strong right arm, and best friend. They were married quietly on July 22, 1994 in Galt Gardens. Their marriage was a love story played out to the tune of As Time Goes By with friends and family happily singing the chorus.  People were drawn to them, to their welcoming enthusiasm, and to their devotion to each other. They found a warm weather home in Surprise, Arizona where they made scores of new friends. During trips to England and Scotland, the Mediterranean, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and memorable river cruises in Europe, they met and became fast friends with countless fellow travelers from all over the world.  Jean’s gentle manner belied a sharp intellect and sense of the comedy in everyday life. A chance encounter at the supermarket could be fodder for a story or a character sketch that would loop into a tale of family connections salted with local history and big dollop of humor. And she could be outrageous enough to make grandchildren exclaim “Grandma, I can’t believe you said that!” She charmed others with her genuine interest in who they were and what they did. She helped willingly and without intruding. She didn’t ask for, nor did she expect, praise for a job done well. After all, helping was, for Jean, a daily expression of her connection to others. Jean is survived by her husband of 18 wonderful years, Aaron Cale Harris, as well as her three children, Donald (Tuckie) Westfall of Alexandria, Virginia; Leigh Anne (Jerry) Petersen of Hyrum, Utah; and Marta (Howard) Herbert of Gilbert, Arizona. She was also blessed with four truly loving step-children and their families who welcomed her into their lives with open arms – Janet (Brian) Mauza of Abbottsford, BC; Gordon (Judy) Harris of Fort Saskatchewan; Mona (Ron) Moser of Lethbridge, and Karen (Jim) Wilkie also of Lethbridge. A total of 22 grandchildren and 20 great grandchildren will miss Jean’s warm heart and comforting touch. The family thanks the dedicated and caring doctors, nurses, and aides too numerous to name individually at St. Michael’s and Chinook Regional Hospital who cared for Jean in her last days. In lieu of flowers contributions can be made to the Anna Jean Harris Fund for Nursing, a scholarship Jean established at Lethbridge College to support students pursuing a career in nursing. A private family graveside service will be held at a later date.  Send condolences at www.mbfunerals.com. Martin Bros. Funeral Chapels Ltd. 610 – 4 Street South Lethbridge, AB T1J 4P3  Phone: (403)328-2361  Fax: (403)382-3623 Toll Free: 1-800-382-2901 www.mbfunerals.com

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  1. Marlene & Don McCann says:

    Cale and family,

    Our sympathy on the loss of your beautiful Jean. We always felt her warm and kind interest whenever she was in our presence.
    Our love and sympathy go out to you,
    Marlene and Don

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