John Adam Harris died Wednesday, April 25, 2018, in Emmett, Idaho. He was 85.
There will be two memorial services. The first will be in Emmett on Saturday, May 19, at 10 a.m., at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. The Three Rivers memorial service will be held Saturday, May 26, at 1:30 p.m., at the Community Presbyterian Church of Three Rivers.
John, known to friends and family as Jack and later as Adam, was born January 29, 1933, in San Francisco, Calif., to Earle Palmer Harris and Madelyn (Ware) Harris. He grew up near Kezar Stadium along with his sister, Rita, and his brother, Jim.
The family moved to nearby Richmond, Calif., and Jack attended Richmond High School. This is where he began his lifelong interest in track-and-field, running sprints and hurdles. In 1951, he graduated from high school and began college at the “local school,” University of California, Berkeley.
At Cal, Jack majored in Physical Education and continued his track career. Running in the West Coast Relays while at Cal was one of the highlights of his career. A humble athlete, he was known to say that he had the “honor of being beaten by some of the finest athletes of that time such as Olympic Champion Decathlete Bob Mathias (low hurdles) and Rafer Johnson (high hurdles).”
In 1954, while at Cal, Jack met and married the former Bobbie McDowall. He took a hiatus from college to spend a couple of years in the U.S. Army at Ford Ord, continuing to run track as well as working in the news media office.
Jack and Bobbie gave birth to their first two daughters, Mary and Jackie, while living in Berkeley. Jack finished his degree at Cal then the family moved to Porterville where he taught and coached at Porterville College.
Their third daughter, Robin, was born in Porterville. The family moved to San Jose when Jack took a job working for United Technology Corporation, teaching at an early aerospace company that built rocket motors. While in San Jose, sons David and Steven were born.
In 1965, the family packed up and moved to Three Rivers, where Bobbie had been raised, when Jack took a job teaching at Sequoia Union Elementary School in Lemon Cove. Local newscaster Rich Rodriguez was one of his many student-athletes at Sequoia Union and reminisced of
Jack, “He was one of my all-time favorite teachers. He was a great teacher with a soft voice who challenged his students to reach for the stars.” Jack taught at Sequoia Union for many years. During these years, he coached sports at Sequoia Union and track at Exeter High.
He also served as principal at Outside Creek Elementary School in Farmersville/Visalia for a few years. John Noel, a teacher there many years, remembers him as “one of the most progressive principals.”
In the 1970s, Jack served on the first Three Rivers Community Services District board with Jim Barton, Rusty Crain, Bill Wylie, and Walter Atwell.
In 1981, Jack moved to San Diego and taught and coached at Kearney High School in San Diego and Muirlands Middle School in La Jolla. He also worked as a sportswriter for the San Diego Downtown News, where he was the journalist assigned to cover the U.S. Men’s Volleyball team during the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Through this, he was able to meet many Olympic athletes and get tickets for his family for a day of track and field.
It was when he began working part-time in a real estate office with several other “Jacks” that he began using his middle name, Adam. In 1989, while in San Diego, Adam met and married the former Georgia Freeman.
In 1995, Adam and Georgia moved to Three Rivers and began more than 20 years of going back and forth between Emmett, Idaho, and Three Rivers, Calif.
During his stay in Three Rivers that year, he reinstituted the Woodlake High Cross Country team after a 12-year hiatus and established the Kaweah Lake Cross Country Meet. He also revived the Bravo Lake Four-Mile Run during Woodlake Western Week and served as race director.
He was director of activities for Three Rivers Union School’s Summer Enrichment Program. Also that year, his Three Rivers Recreation Commission basketball team, which included his grandson, Eddie Pena, and son-in-law Edmund took second place in the 3-on-3 league.
Jack coached the jumpers at Redwood High and when in Emmett, the hurdlers. In 1996, he served on the Three Rivers Recreation Commission board. In 2000, he was hired as the part-time physical education instructor at TRUS.
Jack/Adam and Georgia were involved in community theater in both Three Rivers and Emmett. Jack played the wizard in the Three Rivers Players production of the Wizard of Oz, then directed Steel Magnolias. When the couple returned to Emmett, they helped establish the community theater there and staged Steel Magnolias again as the first of many plays over the years. Jack continued writing sports columns both in Emmett and from 1995-1996 for The Kaweah Commonwealth.
Jack was an avid fan of local sports and loved to talk to athletes of all ages. He enjoyed all of his kids’, grandkids’, and great-grandsons’ sports, attending as many games and matches as he was able.
He was also a huge professional sports fan and was known to have two or three games on at the same time. His teams were the Lakers, Giants, and 49ers.
He loved to watch live music, especially performances by his kids and grandkids, some who play professionally all over the country. In his younger years, only a good sports play could bring a tear to his eye, but in his later years he grew much more sentimental about his family and memories. Jack would tell people about his kids and grandkids and their jobs, sports, and music without much prompting, whenever he ran into people, wherever he was.
He enjoyed working as a substitute teacher well into his 70s, liking the challenge of teaching different subjects. He was a member of the Community Presbyterian Church of Three Rivers where his beautiful speaking voice could be heard narrating Christmas Cantatas and other events.
Jack was an avid reader of fiction and enjoyed learning from a book how to do something new.
Jack is survived by his wife of 39 years, Georgia, of Emmett, Idaho; his children, Mary Harris and husband Burleigh Drummond of Thousand Oaks, Jackie Harris-Groeber and husband Robert Groeber of Three Rivers, Robin Pena and husband Edmund of Three Rivers, David Harris and wife Susan of Long Beach, Steven Harris (Colette) of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; stepdaughter Laurie and husband Ted of Emmett, Idaho; 14 grandchildren; eight step-grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; six step-great-grandchildren; and many nieces, nephews, former
students, and friends, all who will miss his optimism, his sense of humor, and his belief in his athletes and students.