Elizabeth Ellen "Betty" Harris

Posted: Sunday, September 19, 2004

Juneau author, artist, and Master Gardener Elizabeth Ellen "Betty" Harris died peacefully on Thursday, Sept. 16 at her 12th Street home, surrounded by family and friends. She was 79.

She was born in Juneau on July 10, 1925 to Homer G. and Beth Nordling and attended Juneau schools, graduating from Juneau High School in 1943. She attended Miss Woods School for Kindergarten Teachers (now part of Macalester College) in St. Paul, Minn.

She met Vernon P. Harris, a Signal Corps/ACS technical sergeant, at a V-E Day celebration on May 8, 1945 in Juneau. They were married in Minneapolis, Minn. on New Year's Eve, 1945.

They moved back to Alaska in 1947, and raised 4 children in their home on 11th Street. In 1969, they joined the Peace Corps and spent two years in Kingston, Jamaica. Shortly after Vern died in 1978, she purchased the house that her parents had built on 12th Street in 1939 and lived there the rest of her life. She worked at a variety of state and territorial agencies, but especially enjoyed her last job with the Cooperative Extension Service.

She loved gardening. She was a master gardener who was always willing to offer advice and encouragement to beginners. She co-authored the "Juneau Centennial Cookbook" with Jane Stewart and Phyllice Bradner in 1980, and "Color In Rain Country," the only Southeastern Alaska flower gardening handbook, with Bridget Smith in 1982.

She was a founder of the Juneau Widowed Persons Group and the Juneau Women's Resource Center, and was an active volunteer with many community organizations including Girl Scouts, the Juneau Historic District Advisory Committee, and the Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau.

She was a life member of Northern Light Church, where she taught Sunday School, and Juneau Chapter No. 7, Order of the Eastern Star. She was also a member of Pioneers of Alaska Igloo Number 6, AARP, and the National Association of Retired Federal Employees. She traveled widely, visiting Norway, Denmark, Czechoslovakia, Fiji, Kiribas, Jamaica, South America, and the Galapagos Islands.

She was preceded in death by her husband Vernon P. Harris. Survivors include her sons Dennis and Lee Harris (and Marion Dennard) of Juneau; daughters Aurora Ann Fox of Berkeley, Calif. and Bonnie Harris of Gustavus; brother Homer Griffith (Griff) Nordling of Madison, Wis.; sister in law Betty Lou Nordling of Juneau; nephew Douglas Nordling of Portland, Ore.; nieces Diane Rocereto of Beaufort, S.C. and Gail Thibodeau of Juneau; grandson Ryan Gunther Harris of Seattle; granddaughters Kesia Michelleti of Petaluma, Calif. and Serenity Wallen of Kirkland, Wash.; numerous nieces and nephews in Wisconsin and Washington, and 3 great-grandchildren.

The family requests that memorial donations be made to Hospice and Home Care of Juneau, 419 Sixth St., Juneau, Alaska 99801.

Arrangements for the memorial service are pending.

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