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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

John Thomas Harris III

Saturday, November 5, 2005

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July 28, 1909--Nov. 3, 2005

OPELIKA, Ala. -- John T. Harris Sr., 96, died Thursday, Nov. 3, 2005, at East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika.

John T. was born July 28, 1909, on the Harris family farm near Opelika to John T. and Mary Harris. He grew up on the Alabama farm and graduated from Branham and Hughes Military Academy of Spring Hill, Tenn., in 1928 and then attended and graduated from Auburn University with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1932 and concurrently received his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

Upon graduation from Auburn, John T. traveled to New York City, N.Y., where he met Eleanor L. Suess. He and Eleanor were married in Auburn, Ala., April 9, 1936. In New York he worked at Radio City Music Hall on opening night and was honored upon the re-dedication of the restored landmark in 1999. He also worked for Western Union in New York and later moved to Jacksonville, Fla., where he worked as a salesman for Union Carbide Co. He moved back to the family farm in Opelika in 1942 and lived there until the Harris family moved to McCook in 1945. John T and Eleanor retired to the farm in Alabama in 1976.

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After saving and continuing to run the Alabama family farm, he saved DeGroff's Department Store from the aftermath of the depression and was an innovative business leader in McCook. He built numerous homes in the Sunset Addition Area through Harris Construction Company, managed the Suess family farm and ranch, owned and operated a feed lot, developed and owned Gro-Mo Fertilizer Company as well as Harris Chemical Co. John T. and his wife provided the initial financing that launched the Lots To Love Inc. chain of retail stores and also pioneered the use of nitrogen fertilizer in Southwest Nebraska.

John T. was a member of the First United Methodist Church of Opelika since 1918 and was a longtime member of Rotary and the Elks. He was a leader on both state and local levels.

He served as President of the following organizations: McCook YMCA, McCook Chamber of Commerce, Tri-Trails Boy Scout Council, George Norris Memorial Foundation, McCook Corporation and the Nebraska Retail Merchants Association.

He served as Chairman of the following organizations: McCook's 75th Anniversary Celebration, the first United Fund drive in McCook, McCook Medical Recruitment Council and Nebraska Department of Aeronautics, where he served under three Governors.

He served as a Member of the Board of Directors of the Omaha Branch of the Kansas City Federal Reserve for six years. He was a member of the Nebraska Tax Research Council and the Nebraskaland Foundation. He was a member of the Nebraska Environmental Council and received the Silver Beaver Award from the Boy Scouts. He and his wife Eleanor spearheaded a community effort to build the Museum of East Alabama in Opelika.

John T. was preceded in death by his parents; one sister, Elizabeth Boutwell; and one son, Paul Harris.

John T. Harris had a long, productive life that touched many people.

Survivors include his wife, Eleanor Harris of Opelika; a brother, William Harris of Alpharetta, Ga.; sons and daughters-in-law, respectively, John T. Harris Jr. and wife, Karen Harris of Lincoln; Bill Harris and wife, MarySue Harris of Lincoln; Bob Harris and wife, Diane Harris of Killen, Ala.; Bert Harris and wife, Paula Harris of Opelika; Jim Harris and wife, Vicki Harris of Lincoln; daughter-in-law, Ileta Harris of Larned, Kan.; 13 grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren. He is also survived by Sanga Sangsom and wife, Jan Sangsom of Omaha, their two children and two grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at the First United Methodist Church in Opelika, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2005, at 2 p.m., 702 Avenue A, Opelika, AL 36801. A reception will follow in the Church.

Memorials may be sent to the First Congregational Church or the Museum of the High Plains of McCook.