NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas —
James Thomas (Jim) Harrison, born June 18, 1943, in Meadville, died Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012, in his home in New Braunfels, Texas, surrounded by his wife and children.
He was the third son of William and Catherine (Hayes) Harrison. He was an honor student at St. Agatha High School in Meadville, and attended Allegheny College. Jim graduated from Allegheny in 1965 with a degree in psychology and a minor in chemistry, and was awarded a U.S. Air Force commission as a second lieutenant after completing the required Reserve Officer Training program. His 28-year Air Force career included assignments all over North America, a two-year program at George Washington University where he earned a Master’s Degree in hospital administration, and finally at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. During his career he attained the rank of lieutenant colonel and served in a variety of administrative capacities at Air Force hospitals, including being named administrator of the base hospitals at Loring AFB (Caribou, Maine) and Dyess AFB (Abilene, Texas). He was active in civic organizations as well, including Rotary International and Toastmasters, where he honed his public speaking skills and was in demand as a spokesman and trainer for Air Force CHAMPUS health care programs nationwide.
Lt. Col. Harrison fathered two sons from his marriage to the former Lynne Williams of Meadville, James Stephen and Christopher David, both of whom currently reside with their wives and children in the San Antonio area. Always a very active person, Jim became an exercise enthusiast and a competitive runner who participated in several marathons, including the Boston Marathon in 1972. He was also a skilled golfer, a championship go-kart racer and a licensed pilot.
After leaving the Air Force, Jim was hired by a civilian corporation as a technical consultant, managing a group of scientists who studied the effects of lasers and other electromagnetic phenomena on pilots and aircraft navigation systems and developing critical laser eye protection. He showed his entrepreneurial spirit within two years, and started a separately-contracted operation, serving as its general manager as well as being a senior advisor on committees dealing with Air Force strategic missions, base closure and retention studies while managing the day-to-day operations of his technical group.
While in San Antonio, he met and married the former Kimberley Atchison with whom he had a third son, Sean Michael. In addition to his wife and sons, he is survived by siblings, William Charles of Akron, Ohio (wife Pat), Benjamin Leo of Dallas, Texas (wife Tamara), Edward Gerald of Warren, Ohio (wife Polly), and Mary Kay Muller of Largo, Fla. (husband David). He was the proud grandfather of five grandchildren: Brady, Shannon, Ashlyn, Bailey and Jamey.
His parents and his brother, Frederick, predeceased him.
Some of his favorite memories are from his Pennsylvania childhood where he was a member of the local Boy Scout troop, where he competed in (and won) the Soap Box Derby competition, became a skilled water skier, had two paper routes as a delivery boy, worked at Grill’s House of Carpets, sang and played the organ at St. Mary’s Catholic Church on Water Street and in many other ways laid the foundation for an active, productive and positive life. Jim will be missed by a host of family and friends, classmates at St. Agatha and Allegheny and many others whose lives he touched with his relentless enthusiasm, energy, intellectual curiosity, generosity and unselfish kindness.
Friends called on the family on Monday, followed by the Rosary at Zoeller Funeral Home in New Braunfels. A service to celebrate Jim’s life will be held at 11:30 a.m. today at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in New Braunfels; burial and military honors will immediately follow at 1 p.m. at Ft. Sam Houston National Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to: New Braunfels Rotary Scholarship Fund, PO Box 310587, New Braunfels, Texas 78131.
Because Jim had so many friends in and around the Meadville area, the family is planning a memorial service this summer in Meadville or Conneaut Lake. Dates and details will be available by March for an informal service in late July or early August 2013.