Larry (Maynard Lawrence) Harris left this earth peacefully Oct. 17, 2020 at the generous age of 90. He was a man who loved travel and adventure — and seemingly had nine lives. It is not hard to picture him in the afterlife having a grand adventure. He was a lifelong educator and volunteer for many causes. His experiences, contributions and lessons will continue to enrich the lives of family, friends and communities for many years to come.
Larry’s full and adventurous life began May 14, 1930 in Plainfield, N.J., where he was born to Maynard and Edith Harris. He and his younger brother Chris lost their mother when they were young and became a part of a much larger family when his father remarried Caroline Harris, gaining three stepsisters, Caroline, Ellen and Edie, and a stepbrother, Andrew.
He grew up in historic Concord, Mass., attending Middlesex High School, with summers in Randolph, N.H., where he worked clearing hiking trails in the White Mountains and developed his love of the outdoors.
He graduated from Yale in 1953 with a degree in history. He was an ensign in the Navy at the end of the Korean War, following which he worked at U.S. Shipping Lines. He earned a master’s in European history from Columbia University in 1958 and, fascinated by the complexity and diversity of human culture, later pursued graduate work in anthropology at the University of Washington, receiving a doctorate.
Larry had an insatiably curious soul and pursued a lifelong career in education in the United States and around the world.
He married Sally (Sarah) Robinson in 1956. Together they and baby son Jeffrey moved to Michigan, where he taught history and coached ice hockey (one of many sports he loved to play)at Cranbrook School, and where his daughter Rebecca was born. Following that were teaching positions at the Makere College School in Kampala, Uganda, where son Nicholas was born, and then at Athenian School in Danville, Calif. Next he became principal of the large American Community School in Beirut, Lebanon, which he described as the highlight of his life as an educator, leaving only when war drove his family out.
Each school posting abroad allowed for adventurous explorations with family, friends and students throughout Kenya, Syria, Jordon, Greece, Egypt and Turkey, in the early days by way of a little VW Bug and often on uncharted roads.
After Beirut, he returned to the United States to become director of the Upper School at Lakeside School in Seattle, Wash. His last job in education was as principal of the American Embassy School in New Delhi, India, with second wife Cathy Harris and stepsons Andrew and Ryan.
Larry was deeply sensitive to, and invested in, cultural diversity in a way that permeated his work as an educator. He believed that everyone deserves access to quality education and second chances. These beliefs were born out in his holistic philosophy of education; he constantly strove to cultivate students’ critical thinking about the social and environmental changes whirling about them so that they might rise to the challenges of making a better world. Ever prescient, he saw, back in 70s, that it was imperative students think about how society would adapt to rapid climate change and, as he wrote, that they understand, “as graphically as possible, how a polluted environment can create a polluted culture.”
He was a fine writer with a keen attention to ordinary human drama; he leaves numerous typed stories and journals that vividly capture his adventures.
In addition to his teaching and traveling, Larry had a robust sense of civic duty, serving in leadership positions for the Central Area School Council (Seattle), United Way (Whatcom County), Whatcom County Planning Commission, Whatcom County Council, North Sound Regional Support Network, Compass Health, Washington Environmental Council, and the Whidbey Camano Land Trust.
Larry was especially dedicated to environmental causes, including donating to the local land trust a significant parcel of land on his beloved Nooksack River farm near Deming, Wash., in the shadow of Mount Baker.
In 1995, he moved from Bellingham, Wash.to Whidbey Island, Wash., where he used his many talents to renovate an old farmhouse overlooking Useless Bay. He became active in local island political activities, beginning with Citizens for Sensible Development and later becoming campaign director for Fran Abel when she ran for Island County commissioner in 1996. Along the way, with Fran Abel acting as cupid, he met fellow environmental and political activist Betty Azar. They married in 1999. Together they built a beautiful forever-home on the old farmhouse property, filling it with artwork and mementos from around the world as well as furniture he made in his workshop. Together the couple tended their extensive gardens. One of his constant refrains was: “Leafy green vegetables (of which he grew a plethora) are the secret to life.” Larry and his John Deere tractor were the perfect picture of a man and machine as one. He loved the annual ritual of sawing down an alder or two and bucking up firewood. He was an avid walker, especially on the trails around their property, with his springer spaniels. His love of travel never ceased. He and Betty traveled to Europe frequently as well as exploring the western United States on numerous road trips.
Larry was a “Renaissance man.” In addition to his full life as an educator, he was an experienced hiker, skier, tennis player, furniture maker, wood carver, house builder, carpenter, gentleman farmer, extensive reader, writer, political junkie, gourmet, actor in local theater, and opera lover.
He was a proud father and grandfather, taking an interest in and encouraging their varied interests in poetry, music, literature, and farming. He will be remembered lovingly and gratefully by his children for teaching them to hike, ski, play tennis, and do woodwork. He generously supported his grandchildren as they furthered their education and, taking after him, found their callings in the arts and environmentalism.
Larry is preceded in death by son, Jeffrey Lawrence Harris, in 1960.He is survived by his wife, Betty Schrampfer Azar; brother Chris and family; stepsisters Edie and Ellen and families; children Becky Jasperse and Nick Harris and their mother Sally; son-in-law Jay Jasperse; and grandchildren Leland (Lee) and Lindsey Jasperse; stepsons Andrew and Ryan and their mother Cathy; and stepdaughter Chelsea Azar Feldman and family.