Dr. Elicia Harris, his daughter, remembers
Dr. Elicia Harris’ best guess at the attendance for her father’s homecoming, at Pilgrim Baptist Church on August 25, 2018, sits somewhere between 800 and 1000 people. She didn’t know what to expect, she said, but she was still surprised. Across the two-day viewing, “some of my friends told me they waited 45 minutes to an hour to talk to my family,” Harris recalled.
Edward D. Harris (February 4, 1959 - August 19, 2018) was the assistant director of home detention at the Allen County Community Corrections. Specifically, he advocated for many as the creator of the city’s home detention program. “For a lot of people that was their way to prevent them from going to jail or to prison,” Harris said, who described the service as a “beautiful” reflection, with family and friends, of her father’s life.
Edward was “very humble, very giving, and very funny,” Elicia said. He loved comedies and his favorite movie was Cooley High. He played in the 40 and over basketball league at the Y, and loved Pittsburgh Steelers and I.U. basketball; he would Bobby Knight-it, when the Hoosiers would lose.
He was Alpha Phi Alpha, a big brother for Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and active at his church, 22 years at Pilgrim Baptist…a deacon at that, because of course he was. He left Pilgrim when Cornelius Hill Jr. started his own church, Light of the World Christian Church.
And “he was the ultimate dad, who was very supportive, involved, and engaged,” Harris said. He attended almost all of their games and award ceremonies; there were many. In the case of Harris, who played sports but wasn’t the sports one (that was brother, Doran), he was present when his oldest graduated Purdue University, I.U. Medical School, and from residency school.
When Elicia, her grade school’s salutatorian, balked at taking AP courses at private Concordia Lutheran High School, because “for some reason I didn’t think I was really smart,” she said, who was all good with taking regular classes. Edward Harris thought his daughter crazy for thinking otherwise. He said she was smart enough to take all of the AP classes. On the drive to taking the tests, he told her that there wasn’t anything she couldn’t do.
“There have been different times that I’ve kind of doubted myself,” Harris said, like not knowing if she would get into medical school. She received a full-ride scholarship to I.U. medical school. She didn’t know if she was getting into a residency program; she ended up Chief-in-Resident in her resident program.
Edward “didn’t play,” Elicia said, about asserting his point; a look was enough to quell, to discipline, to make you “sit down and shut up.” Edward Harris, maybe naturally, fatherly for certain, hid his cancer diagnosis from his children…from Elicia who was learning to heal when possible and to spot the trace evidence of dying. “Initially, I was mad, but I got it,” she said.
Edward was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma at an early age but at a very advanced state. He didn’t want to distract his overachiever who was about to test for her residency program. Elicia found out when her father went to her hospital at I.U. for a stem cell transplant that extended his life, sending his cancer into remission for ten years. When his cancer returned, Edward kept the circle of knowledge small again with only his family knowing. “What I found surprising was that people didn’t even know he was sick,” Elicia said.
The only time Elicia could remember seeing him cry was at the very end of his cancer, when all options had been exhausted. It was “out of frustration,” Elicia said about her father, who was “very much a man’s man, who was upset (and possibly confused) about having his children and his wife do things for him.
During his chemo, Edward worked every day (and attended every church service) to the point where Elicia and her sister had to force him to retire. “I could see he was at the end of his cancer but I didn’t want to tell him that,” she said. “I wanted to enjoy the time with him that he had left.”
His only prayer after his diagnosis was to live long enough to see his kids accomplish and crown their futures. Elicia made it all the way through medical school and her sister received a full-ride to law school and was picked to be her graduation’s keynote speaker; she told the stories of what her father taught her. The family didn’t tell him she was speaking.
Harris retired July 7 and passed on a month later. Edward and his wife would have celebrated their 32nd anniversary on September 6. The couple met at I.U. when she was a junior and he was a senior. To commemorate, the Harris siblings took their mother to dinner at their parent’s favorite restaurant, Paula’s On Main. Elicia the doctor couldn’t make it. She was on call, on duty.