Grafton – Richard Henry Harris, 92, died Nov. 17, 2018 in Worcester, the city in which he was born and raised, where he married both of his cherished wives, and where he worked his entire career.
Dick was married for 49 years to Rosemary Marble Harris, whom he met when he was at MIT and she at Radcliffe College. After a first date in a sailboat on the Charles River he prevailed over her legendarily long list of suitors to win her hand. They had five children and lived for over 65 years in an historic Greek Revival house in Grafton center. Restoring and updating the house and gardens was a labor of love throughout their marriage.
He and Rosemary spent much of their summers on Mountainy Pond, a preservation of 6,000 acres of Maine fresh water and forests where they designed and built two post and beam cabins that continue to host much of his family during the summer.
After Rosemary’s death in 1999, Dick married Nancy McClelland Wilson of Holden, a friend from the Worcester Unitarian Church. Despite their diametrically opposed politics, they enjoyed a lively and happy marriage for 16 years. They lived in Grafton until Nancy’s death in 2016. He took great pleasure in his relationships with Nancy’s three children and their spouses.
He often told people how fortunate he was to have two wonderful wives. Both relationships were nurtured by the daily ritual of an evening cocktail hour with champagne and cheese, which was a time to discuss the day and focus on one another, enjoy the company of friends and neighbors, or dial up one of their adult children on speakerphone.
Dick grew up on Gifford Drive with his parents, Percy Henry Guy Harris and Helen Elizabeth Hult, and his brother, Roger Guy Harris. A model student from an early age, he graduated with honors from Classical High and was recruited as a V12 Engineering Officer Candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, making him the first in his family to attend college. After the war, he was discharged in August 1946 and returned to MIT as a junior, where he studied economics and management at MIT business school, receiving a BS in 1948 and a Masters in 1949. While at MIT he was elected to the Tau Beta Pi Honor Society and to the presidency of the MIT Management Association.
Upon graduation he worked at the Norton Company for 20 years in a variety of finance roles including Assistant Controller, Finance and Accounting Chief for the International Division and Director of Corporate Development. In 1969 he became President and CEO of Curtis and Marble, a textile machinery company where he had been a director. Additional roles included serving as Director and President of the American Textile Machinery Association and Director of its export consortium.
Throughout his life Dick became impassioned by investing, and he developed a metric for Value Line, Inc. called Percent Retained to Common Equity. Arnold Bernhardt, the founder of Value Line, later described it as the most important line in his service.
Dick’s interests included skiing, tennis, sailing, woodworking and building things. He lunched and played bridge with his cronies at the Worcester Club nearly every weekday throughout his retirement.
He was a Director of Associated Industries of Massachusetts, a trustee of Mass Taxpayers Foundation, a trustee and Chairman of Central New England College, a trustee and Chairman of Shepherd Knapp School, and a trustee and Vice-President of the Worcester Historical Museum. He initiated the preservation of the historic 50-acre Freegrace Marble farm in Sutton, which is protected in perpetuity by SPNEA covenants. Later, as Trustee of SPNEA (now Historic New England), he chaired the Stewardship Committee. He was a founder and lifetime member of the Grafton Land Trust, and he and his wife Rosemary donated four acres of open space to the Trust.
His legacy includes five children who get along fabulously and love each other, which brought much delight to him and their mother. In addition to his five children, Jonathan Harris, Candace Harris, Susan Galford, Andrea Harris, and Leslie Lynch, and their spouses, his family includes nine grandchildren, James, Peter, Sophie, Emily, Zachary, Katy, Luke, Jake, and Joshua and their spouses, and two great-grandchildren, Jura and Myles. He also leaves behind his and Nancy’s beloved dog, Maggie, who has been adopted by a dear family friend.
A gathering in his honor will take place Saturday, Dec. 8, at 1 p.m., at the Worcester Club, One Oak St.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a gift in his memory to the Grafton Land Trust at PO Box 114, Grafton, MA 01519 or www.graftonland.org.
A Book of Memories to share a memory of Dick or message of sympathy with his family is available online at www.RoneyFuneralHome.com.