Mary Ellis Harris 1926-2022
Beloved mother and family matriarch Mary E Harris died June 23, 2022. Mary, daughter of Rex Ellis and Nona Johnson Ellis, was delivered by her uncle Dr E.O. Parker at Pendleton’s St. Anthony Hospital. Later Mary would live with her Aunt Edie and “Docky” Parker during the week while she attended Lincoln Elementary School. A Pendleton native, Mary’s maternal great-grandfather served as wagon master, leading his family and a group of immigrants over the Oregon Trail where they settled in Umatilla County.
A childhood highlight was when Mary, an excellent student, was excused from high school senior classes to serve as secretary to her father, a nineteen-year state senator, in Salem. She sat with him on the senate floor during debates and was fascinated with all the proceedings. There began a lifetime interest in politics and the Republican Party.
In 1943 Mary entered Oregon State University. On the advice of her high school principal, she enrolled in Home Economics, although bookkeeping was her real interest and talent. In February 1946 she met Wayne Harris, a Marine veteran, enrolled in the Forestry Program. Mary writes in her personal notes that they shared a laugh and later her called her to ask if you rinsed spaghetti after cooking. She said she didn’t have the faintest idea. Wayne was required to take a forestry job to graduate. They married June 6th and honeymooned at Saddle Butte Lookout station. Married for 64 years, Mary always called Wayne her best friend.
They graduated in 1948 with young son Ron along for the celebration. Julie was born after Wayne moved his family to a Southern Oregon lumber camp where he was employed, and Sue was welcomed after they later settled in Pendleton. Eight adored grandchildren followed. Wanting to honor her cherished grandmother, Molly Benson, Mary choose Gram as her grandparent name. Her first-born grandchild pronounced it Grum and henceforth she was known as Grum.
Being service orientated, Mary participated in many organizations including Eastern Star, St. Stephens Ministries through the Episcopal church, Hospice, and Delphians. She was inevitably elected secretary or treasurer, her true talents. She was a sought-out Bridge partner, having reached the Grand Master Level, enjoyed walking with her friends, continued to snow ski into her 70s, and was a bookkeeper for her husband’s business.
The Harris family enjoyed family reunions. The entire family participated in Pendleton Triathlons and Mary was on a team with two of her granddaughters. Another annual favorite family activity was gag gift exchanges. Mary had the uncanny ability to comb the depths of her basement for the most unusual and unique surprises.
Having served as a navigator in the Marines during WWII, Wayne earned his pilot’s license and the whole family enjoyed traveling in his Cessna plane. Mary’s highlight in the air was a couples group tour from Portland Oregon to Portland Maine
Mary’s family would describe her as loving, thoughtful, generous, devoted, intelligent, tenacious, health conscious and with a splendid sense of humor. She lived by the Golden Rule; she believed if you want to be forgiven, you forgive others and accept people as they are.
Mary is survived by her children, Ron (Mary) Harris, Julie (Mike) Garchar and Sue Kopp, eight grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren. She is predeceased by her husband Wayne, her sister Janet Hagen, her brother Bill Ellis, her son-in-law Jim Kopp and her bold descendants who forged a new life in the western frontier.
On a recent visit, her daughter asked, “who loves you mom?” Her correct answer was “everybody”
Shriner's Hospital for Children
3101 SW Sam Jackson Park Road, Portland OR 97201