Margaret “Maggie” Harris passed away on June 21, 2019, in hospice care at AdventHealth Hospital in Orlando Florida. She was 85 years old.
Maggie was born Margaret Jeannine Wells on December 30, 1933 in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. Her father, Benjamin Franklin Wells, was a transplanted Kentuckian who fell in love and married a Nebraska farm girl, Dorothy Niona Jernberg. Ben was a railroad executive, so Maggie managed to live in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming, before graduating from college. Her mother’s family farm in Genoa, Nebraska, was the only stable geographic location of her childhood. When asked where she was raised, Maggie would reply “on the Union Pacific Railroad.”
Maggie had a lifelong love of education and spent over 50 years serving others in the field of healthcare. In 1957 she earned her BA in general science from University of Iowa and then went on to become a licensed medical technologist (1958), blood bank technologist (1958), and cytotechnologist (1969). As a cytotechnologist, she worked on cancer research at LA County Medical Center and the University of Chicago and was a co-author of over a dozen scientific journal articles and book chapters. She was also a founding member of The American Society for Cytotechnologists.
When her youngest child left for college, Maggie returned to school to earn a Master of Health Administration from Washington University in St. Louis (1983) and then moved to Arizona to work as a hospital administrator. While in Arizona, Maggie also earned a graduate certificate in gerontology (1990), administered several facilities for seniors, and became an advocate for the elderly, serving as a board member on the Pima Council on Aging and as board president for Miracle Square, Inc. Housing for Low Income Elderly.
In 1955, while finishing her med tech training, Maggie met Leland Harris, a World War II veteran finishing his Ph.D. in Chemistry. They had a true whirlwind romance that culminated in their marriage on April 1st the same year. Eventually the couple would settle down in Galesburg, Illinois where Lee taught at Knox College (Chemistry, 1957-1986) and Maggie split her time between her roles as faculty wife, homemaker, and cytotechnologist. Maggie had a microscope on her desk at home located between the kitchen and family room. She would commute up to the University of Chicago and return to Galesburg with boxes of slides which she could screen while also keeping an eye on her children. Maggie and Lee were married for 52 years before Lee passed away in 2007.
Although both were proud of their professional achievements, Maggie and Lee were most proud of their children and grandchildren. Maggie’s first daughter, Linda, is married to Larry Mimms; they have two sons, Evan and Jared, and one daughter Lauren, who is married to Zack Bockmier. Maggie’s second daughter, Annie, is married to Chris McNeil; they have two sons, Dylan and Evan. Maggie’s youngest and only son is Paul, who is unmarried and a professor at Rollins College in Winter Park Florida. Maggie and Leland moved to Florida in 2001 to be close to Paul who helped care for them during the last years of their lives.
In accordance with her wishes, Maggie’s life will be celebrated and memorialized privately by her family. Remembrance donations can be made to iTN Orlando, an organization that provides low cost transportation for the elderly (and who drove Maggie to many of her bridge games and appointments) – https://www.itnorlando.org/donate. Condolences can be sent to Paul Harris, 198 Balfour Drive, Winter Park, FL 32792 (Paul will share these with the rest of the family).