Stewart Michael Harris
July 18, 1942 – March 2, 2017
Stewart Michael Harris of Sequim, WA, age 74, passed away March 2nd at Harrison Medical Center Hospital in Bremerton, within a week of being diagnosed with metastasized cancer of the gallbladder.
Stew was born July 18, 1942, in Champaign, Ill., to Robert (“Pete”) Hobson Harris and Edith (“Betty”) Elizabeth (Stewart) Harris. As the first grandchild on both sides of the family, he enjoyed the attentions of both sets of grandparents. After the war his father again worked for the railroad, and he lived with his parents in Mount Pulaski, Ill., where they rented a house that had been left, along with the founder’s book collection, to the town’s first librarian. Stew recalled bathing in a canvas Sears catalog bathtub and starting school before the family moved to Clinton, Ill. He got to know many of his eventual Clinton High School Class of 1960 classmates in elementary school there, and he told many stories about their adventures as kids. Stew began his work life delivering newspapers, later working at the railroad station unloading railroad cars and during high school working part-time at Clinton’s radio station as a program announcer.
Stew graduated with a degree in electrical engineering from Iowa State (Ames, Iowa) in 1964, a beneficiary of the NROTC recruitment program, and worked part-time as an announcer for Ames’ town radio station. Upon graduation he entered the Navy as a trained midshipman, serving primarily in the Mediterranean, 1964-1968, achieving the rank of Lieutenant (JG) in December 1965. In 1968, anticipating his discharge, he was instead transferred to Vietnam, where he served as a Senior Advisor (Coastal Group 16) naval land base in Quong Nai Province.
Lieutenant Harris’ discharge form lists the following awards: Bronze Star with combat “V”, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with five Bronze Stars, Vietnam Campaign medal with device, Combat Action ribbon, Cross of Gallantry, and Honor Medal 1st class. His memoir, “Shore Duty: a Year in Vietnam’s Junk Force,” published in 2009, won the Military Writers Society of America (MWSA) gold medal in the Military/Navy category in 2010.
Released from active duty in December 1969 at Long Beach, Calif., Stew’s subsequent career is best described as exotic materials engineering. Stew worked first for Owens-Illinois on the San Francisco peninsula, where he began his personal sailing experience with a 24-foot Islander sailboat, Pelagic. Other principal employers were Pantek International Corp. in Lewistown, Pennsylvania; Fasar Induction in San Fernando, Industrial Electronic Engineers (IEE) in Van Nuys, and Solderwick in Monrovia.
Stew was a dedicated member of his neighborhood’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), of which he was a board member for several years. In 2016, he began serving on the Marina Advisory Committee of the Port of Port Angeles. A member of the Sequim Bay Yacht Club, he enjoyed his powerboat Strait Away. He also treasured friendships and memories from several cruises taken since 2007 on Holland America ships, most of them with Garrison Keillor of “A Prairie Home Companion.”
His favorite past-times included gazing at marine traffic on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, viewing the changing snow patterns on the Olympic Mountain Range and scrutinizing the behavior of backyard wildlife.
An only child, Stew more than fulfilled family responsibilities to his parents and grandparents. He was preceded in death by his mother (October 2004) and father (May 2006). He is survived by his significant other of 31 years, Kris Ecklund of Sequim, three aunts, several cousins, his friends from early 1970s sailing days, some Clinton High School classmates, and many other friends around the country.
In accordance with his wishes, Stew’s funeral on March 14 was a Military Honors ceremony at Tahoma National Cemetery, in Kent, WA, with the Stone Chapel Poulsbo Mortuary making the arrangements (www.poulsbomortuary.com). A memorial service will take place Thursday, April 20, 2 p.m., at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 525 N. Fifth Avenue, Sequim, WA.
Memorial donations may be made to Stew’s favorite charity — The Salvation Army — or to the organization of your choice.