Community cookout will celebrate birthday and honor legacy of a great man

Harry Harris

Community cookout will celebrate birthday and honor legacy of a great man
August 18
09:01 2022

The name Harry Harris is synonymous with community and heart. The man, affectionately named “Mr. Polo Road,” unfortunately passed away earlier this year on Jan 23. To honor his legacy, his birthday and the great man he was, a cookout will be held on Sept. 2 from 5 to 8 p.m. at Oak Summit Park.

Harris was truly a man of the people and the main architect for the Elite Eight alumni basketball and flag football tournaments during the holiday season.  The tournaments were not only a place for alumni to fellowship, Harris collected canned goods and toys, which he donated to local nonprofits to help the less fortunate.  Harris never met a stranger as he befriended nearly everyone he met because of his inviting personality.  He will be missed by family and friends alike.

Another mission of Harris’ was helping the youth.  He ran an enrichment camp for children each summer called The Love Center.  The camp consisted of classroom style sessions and activities such as golf, swimming, science, skating and even visiting museums.“Harry is my husband, so this whole thing was unexpected, and his birthday is on Friday, Sept. 2, so me and his son couldn’t think of any other way but to honor him,” said Tarsha Harris, Harry Harris’ wife. “You know, just have the community come out, and you know he was definitely all about the community. I just wanted to honor him and keep his legacy going.

“It’s just a dedication for him, I mean this is something we want to start up, because we are calling it the first annual Harry Harris cookout, so who knows where it could go. Definitely just wanted to start off by extending it out to everyone to come out and celebrate his honor and just laugh and reminisce about him.”

Harris was a proud graduate of Mt. Tabor High School, class of 1995.  He went on the attend Fayetteville State University (FSU), where he played football.  He graduated from FSU in 2000 and cherished his alma mater.  It is also the place where he met his wife Tarsha. 

Harris’ favorite football team was the Pittsburgh Steelers, so there will be a balloon release with 46 black, gold and white balloons because he would have been 46 years of age this year.  

When people heard about the passing of Harris, it was devastating news to many because of the kind soul he was. Tarsha Harris says she was not surprised by the number of people who were impacted by his death.

“I was expecting this because honestly, that’s just the type of person that Harry was,” she said. “I wasn’t shocked at all, but honestly, this whole cookout was really just to honor him, and I really wasn’t aiming for a huge turnout, I just felt like whoever shows up, shows up.”

Even though it will be tough to relive all of the great moments they shared with Harry, Tarsha and their son Isaiah say celebrating the life of Harry is more important.

“It’s going to be emotional,” she said. “It’s his birthday and he’s not here physically to celebrate his birthday, which is tough.”

“We have been through a couple of holidays and especially the biggest one, July 4, which was his favorite holiday,” said Isaiah Harris, Harry Harris’ son. “With this cookout coming up, this is his day. We just wanted to, like my mother said, reach out to the community that remembers him, but the community he would still be touching if he was here today.

“Coming from the oldest perspective of my birthday is five days after his, so that’s the connection me and him always had. It will definitely be different this year.”

Harris had many people who cherished his friendship. Chad Fernanders met Harris through Harris’ father and they became closer during their college years. Fernanders also worked with Harris in coordinating the Elite Eight during its early stages.

“We just clicked and that was my brother,” said Fernanders. “We were actually sitting at his house one day and his wife was giving him some insight on some things on how they do things down in Durham with this little event, so me and him really came up with the Elite Eight, as far as how we were going to run it.

“We just started off with two teams really, with East Forsyth and Mt. Tabor, and then after that it sort of was getting bigger. Harry was one of the ones that would call everyone to check on them every day.”

Fernanders says others such as Shermane McGriff became involved to really expand the tournaments and to get to the level of where it is now. Fernanders says Harris was all about the people, so anyone who wanted to become involved with expanding the alumni tournaments was welcomed by Harris.

Hearing about the passing of Harris was “devastating” for Fernanders. He had spoken to Harris the previous day and when Tarsha Harris notified him of Harris’s passing, he couldn’t believe it.

“God didn’t make too many Harrys,” said Fernanders. “One thing about Harry, Harry touched a lot of people. If he could help, he would help you. It was nothing in the world that Harry wouldn’t do for you.”

There are some details to be worked out pertaining to the football and basketball tournaments, but as far as the kickball tournament, it’s a go. On Sept. 17 at Twin City Ballfields, 2790 New Walkertown Road, The Women of Elite Eight will present the inaugural Harry Harris Memorial Kickball Tournament.

Kickball tournament organizer Nakeeba Orr knew Harris from their time in elementary school. She says the passing of Harris hurt and he left behind a lot of people who will miss him. Orr says Harris was dedicated to his family and was a man of the community.

“I feel like this is what he would have wanted,” said Orr. “I feel like everybody is so used to him being there supporting us and he loved to see us play kickball, he loved we got it started, and I just think that would be honorable for him to keep it going and just do it in his memory.

“It was my idea to name it after him. I think I am going to keep this tournament separate from my original Elite Eight tournament. I feel like because it’s around his birthday, I couldn’t do it the week of the picnic, but I decided to do it in September in honor of his birthday and his memory all in one.”

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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