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Life Story / Obituary
Everyone who met Harris Walters soon learned what he treasured; his relationship with God, his love for his immediate and extended family, his church family and friends, and a strong work ethic. Sports were up there, too, including his beloved Detroit Tigers. His children and many others will remember him as a selfless man who was concerned about the comfort and well being of others before himself. His strong belief in Jesus Christ was the rock and foundation for his life and the source of his genuine warmth for others. Greatly loved and deeply missed, Harris Walters’ faith and example will remain an inspiration as he now rests in the place that Jesus prepared for him.
The 1920s were a time of dramatic change. For the first time, more people lived in cities than on farms, and economic growth was changing America. It was during this time that Frank and Florence Walters welcomed their first son, Harris, who was born on August 5, 1924, in Otsego, Michigan.
However, it wasn’t the prosperity of the 1920s that Harris recalled in his earliest memories. His parents were renting a house in downtown Otsego and Harris started school there. Then the stock market crashed and the Great Depression set in. The Walters family left town and moved to a nearby farm. Harris said his parents could make a better living because they could have a cow, pigs, and chickens as well as grow their own food. The decision to move would prove to be a huge change for the Walters children. The farm didn’t have electricity and indoor plumbing, so they adjusted to an outhouse and a one-room country schoolhouse. Harris recalled they always had plenty to eat, even for a large family that grew to include Marian, Ethel, Fran, Beatrice, Carl, Vivian, Lou, and Katherine. Learning the challenges of farm life at an early age, all of the kids had chores, from milking the cow to feeding the animals. Harris fondly remembered the exact year his parent’s farm finally got electricity because that was the same year Detroit Tigers’ Hank Greenberg hit 58 home runs! An avid fan, he never missed an opportunity to follow their season on the radio. Harris eventually graduated with the Class of 1942 from Otsego High School. The U.S. was immersed in WWII and Harris signed up to help assemble B24 bombers along with some of his siblings at Willow Run. He joined the Army in 1944, trained in anti-aircraft artillery, and eventually served in the Quartermaster Corp. in New Guinea.
Harris met his future wife, Effie Klein when they both attended Martin Reformed Church. They were married on October 14, 1949, and welcomed three sons into their home; Frank, Dan, and Dennis. Harris had worked in an old-fashioned grocery store all through high school, a place where the clerks got all the items for customers. By the 1950s, however, the supermarket was the new thing and Harris landed a job at Harding’s Friendly Market. He was an assistant manager in Otsego for most of those years. The Walters family relocated to Vicksburg in 1962 when Harris accepted a position as the store manager at the Harding’s store there.
Although the store took up much of his time, it was always clear Harris had more important priorities. He served as an elder at both Martin Reformed Church and then Lakeland Reformed Church in Vicksburg, where he and Effie religiously attended morning and evening services. Sunday, the Sabbath, was also a day of rest from work and often a time to visit Grandma Walters or Grandpa and Grandma Klein and other family members. Extremely supportive, he and Effie faithfully attended all their sons’ sporting events and other milestones. Loyal fans, the family enjoyed their annual ritual of traveling to see the Detroit Tigers in the twi-night doubleheader! Grandpa Klein came along one time and dressed up in a suit and tie, even in the August heat! Harris also loved going to University of Michigan football games with family and friends. He kept busy after retiring from Harding’s with laundry and car wash operations and had business ties and lifelong friendships with the Tien and Boles families.
A man of infinite faith in His Savior, he leaned on his strong beliefs to bounce back from life’s setbacks, including the Harding’s store fire in 1971 and the sudden death of his wife, Effie in 1979. Even in his grief, Harris put his family first and was a rock for his children and growing grandkids near and far. The grandchildren in Michigan quickly filled an entire page with memories of Grandpa Harris. Bike rides or trips to see deer followed by ice cream and weekly rituals of sharing dinners together that lasted into adulthood. Special memories were of Grandpa joining them on every vacation and taking them on visits to the cemetery around Memorial Day. Harris took a genuine interest in each of his grandchildren’s lives, including two new grandsons and a special young boy, James when they arrived later in his life. A trip to “Papa’s house” for them was the best vacation ever! The grandkids all have memories to last a lifetime. Harris leaves behind a rich legacy of loving unconditionally and will be remembered fondly by so the many people who received his support when going through tough times.
Harris Walters went to be with his Heavenly Father on August 3, 2018, at his home. He is survived by three sons, Frank (Patty), Dan (Rhonda), Dennis (Meli); Grandchildren; Emily, Alison (Dan), Amanda, Nathan (Carolina), Matt, Mark (Kelly), Samuel, Andrew, and James. Also, surviving are siblings, Fran Walters, Vivian Reed, and Lou (Ned) Sutherland. As well as brother-in-law, George (Evelyn) Klein and sister-in-law, Betty Klein Welch. He was preceded in death by his loving wife, Effie, parents, Frank and Florence, and siblings, Marian, Ethel, Beatrice, Carl, and Katherine. A special thank you to longtime friends and business partners, Wendel and Geri Bole for their dedicated support and love for our Dad, Shirley Kury, for her friendship and kindness, and Larry Ketchum and Donna Crouch for their assistance in helping our Dad at the VFW and American Legion. Extended step-family; Scott (Lana), Brynn and Olivia Bowen, Amy (Josh), Tucker, and Ally Wright, and Laura (Zac), Oliver, and Milo, Niven. Former daughter-in-law, Sue Emrick with whom he remained close. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials be made to Lakeland Reformed Church or to the Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation. A visitation will be held at McCowen & Secord Family Funeral Homes, 409 S. Main St. Vicksburg, MI 49097 (269-649-1697) on Friday, August 10th from 4-7 PM. The funeral service will be held at Lakeland Reformed Church, 10442 S. Sprinkle Rd. Vicksburg, MI 49097 (269-649-1703) on Saturday, August 11, at 11 AM. Please visit Harris’ web page at www.mccowensecord.com where you can archive a photo, share a memory, and sign the guestbook.