By Martha Stoelting
All who knew Charlie Harris knew he loved people, to be on the go and involved in his community. His life was a testimony to service to others, not only through his profession as a funeral director, but also in his community involvement. He had friends spanning all age groups due to his outgoing, upbeat personality.
The owner of both funeral homes in Syracuse and North Webster, he built a new facility to serve both communities in 1976 at SR 13 and East 1000N. When he chose the location it was out in the country but now it contains two churches, Wawasee Middle School and a restaurant as well as other businesses. He was a fixture at the funeral home door, smiling, offering support and assistance to those coming for a final goodbye to friends or family. That in itself is an important job.
He was the oldest licensed, practicing funeral director in the state at the time of his death. Today his great niece and her husband, Cheryl and David Colquitt, continue the tradition at Eastlund Funeral Home where he offered invaluable help and advice.
Charlie’s impact on the community cannot be understated. He always had a smile and a kind word for others. His more than 60 years of service to the Syracuse-Wawasee Rotary Club has become a legend. Right up until the end, he was attending meetings and working at the club’s lemonade stand. He believed in giving back to the community and supporting projects helping others.
The club named an award after him called the Charlie Harris Lifetime Achievement Award. He was its first recipient. Susan Stump was the Rotary president when the award was created. She noted, “We all loved and admired Charlie and strive to live our lives the way he did.”
Through the years, Charlie was involved with many other community groups and organizations to better people’s lives. He had been serving on the board of directors of the Syracuse-Wawasee Historical Museum. He brought his years of wisdom and living local history to the table and was always in attendance at the museum’s programs if he and his lifetime companion, Donna Workman, were in town. They spent winters in Florida.
One could say Charlie Harris’s passing is the end of an era. But, his legacy will live on in the hearts of those who knew him including his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. His was a life well lived and enjoyed.