Harris leaves lasting legacy

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I make every effort to maintain this space as a positive experience for readers, often offering a comical look at the world we live in. That makes it difficult to discuss the issue of the death of a notable person two weeks in a row, but, as always, there are exceptions to every rule.

I posted on social media recently that it was nearly impossible to cover the news of Dunn and not know former Mayor Oscar Harris, who died unexpectedly last week. Working at The Daily Record for 20 years before making a career change late last year, that was certainly the case for me. Dozens of interactions with Oscar left permanent impressions in my life.

Perhaps fellow former Mayor Abe Elmore is the only other person in the town’s history known by most by his first name. Abe left us last year and now he and Oscar are smiling down on Dunn together. Both served multiple terms as mayor and both will be remembered for decades.

It is not possible in this limited space to capture exactly what Oscar meant to this community. I doubt, myself or anyone else outside his family, knows even a small portion of the good he did for the people here.

It has been my experience that those who do the most often talk the least. They help not because they want credit for what they do, they help because it is the right thing to do. Oscar did plenty but was not one to toot his own horn. Campbell University, Glad Tidings Church and the American Legion, all felt his impact.

Oscar and I shared a love of Rotary and the work the organization does worldwide and in the local community. Oscar, without a doubt, impacted that organization. He also did something I didn’t, he served his country in the U.S. Marines, prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice if necessary in the name of protecting his country.

Last week, I wrote of the impact Kobe Bryant’s death, and those on his helicopter that crashed now more than a week ago in California. This week, I write about how another remarkable man affected those of us who were blessed to be part of his life in some small way.

There are so many things I will remember about my friend, Oscar. He had a smile that was unforgettable. Many times he recognized me at a board meeting or some other event with that smile lighting up a room.

I will remember our Christmas card display each year that included a card from Oscar and his family more years than not. I will remember his frequent visits to The Daily Record newsroom. Many times Oscar was accompanied by his wife, Jean. My fellow newsroom staffers will never forget those visits and the thousands of pictures Jean brought in over the years.

Those are just a few of the things I will remember about Oscar. Homes throughout Dunn are undoubtedly filled with other stories as the community continues to remember this great man. The old saying, gone but not forgotten, is as gross understatement here.

Heaven has gotten two great mayors and men from our small part of the world in recent months. They are both gone from the town they loved, but neither will ever be forgotten. I am proud that I knew them both.

Tom Woerner is a former reporter with The Daily Record and editor of the Harnett County News. He can be reached at woernertmw@yahoo.com.

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