Memorial Gatherings for Lurilla Harris Tuesday, July 19th, Noon
at the First Unitarian Universalist Church, Franklin at Geary
and Wednesday, July 20, 2:30 pm at the St. Francis Lutheran Church, 152 Church St. near Market St.

lurille-harrisCelebrate the life of Lurilla Harris!

Lurilla was a marvel of a woman, a tenacious survivor despite a stroke some years ago, who made the rounds constantly, forging ahead with her walker, transported hither and yon constantly by the city’s service buses for the disabled to get to concerts, films, community meetings, political hearings, you name it. If it was interesting and if it was free, Lurilla availed herself of it. If it was politically important she made the time to go and make her voice heard and her opinion considered.

She was smart as a whip, and a wiseacre of the first order. She had flamboyant tastes in clothing and sunglasses. She knew what she liked and she knew what she was entitled to, and she made sure she wasn’t denied her due. Her ego was strong, and she had the smarts to justify her good opinion of herself. She didn’t suffer fools gladly, and she didn’t let organizations like Paratransit — the city-contracted transportation company she used to get around, whose bus was the instrument of her tragic, ugly and untimely death — stint in the services they were obliged by contract to deliver.

In a massive irony, Lurilla was indeed struck down and killed by a Paratransit bus, whose driver evidently failed to notice that the woman he had just transported (delivering her an hour or more late to a meeting at the First Universalist Unitarian Church that was called to discuss pedestrian safety for the disabled, and if we know Lurilla made subject to a tongue lashing when he picked her up late in the first place and probably another as she dismounted the bus), having just crossed in front of his bus pushing her walker, had recoiled at the oncoming traffic or had seen the traffic light changing against her, and had stepped back into the path of his bus to avoid being nailed by vehicles roaring up Franklin Street approaching Geary Boulevard on a green light just as she was approaching the half-way point of the three lanes of one-way traffic. The driver behind the wheel of the bus that killed her evidently was dragged out by his labors, or had simply not deemed it his responsibility to make sure that this disabled woman pushing a walker, whom he had just left off at the curb opposite the church, and who had proceeded to cross in front of his bus, get safely across the intersection before the light changed, beckoning the north-bound traffic to barrel through. The bus driver himself, running so late in his schedule that Lurilla was already more than an hour late to her meeting, apparently gunned his engine as soon as he thought she was out of the way of his bus. Sadly, she was not. With a step back to avoid the on-rushing traffic in the middle lane of Franklin Street, Lurilla put herself in death’s way, was struck down, and was dragged with her walker 30 feet through the intersection before the driver finally brought his bus to a stop. The only fortunate aspect of her death was that, according to an eyewitness, the trauma was such that she probably died instantly and was spared the agony of a lingering death.

And so ended the life of Lurilla Harris at age 86. We don’t know enough about her life and career, though an enterprising journalist or researcher could likely piece much together. We believe, from what we recollect of the bits she told us along the way, that she spent significant time in New Orleans in the early years, that she was long involved in the newspaper business, whether as a reporter or a production worker we’re not sure, but we think mostly as a proofreader, that she was an active and vocal union member, that she was editor for two stretches of the Bernal Journal, that she had a taste for garish hats and unhealthy processed foods, that she liked the tunes Caravan and Take the A-Train, that she had a passion for cats and for social justice, that she had a son, Josh, whom she worried about and helped as much as she could, that she was cantankerous and bellicose (or so it sometimes seemed, though actually she was quite a cheerful soul when you came right down to it), that she was charmed by lovely music and young, strapping men, that she liked chocolate inordinately.

Lurilla will be missed. We look forward to meeting many of her friends and admirers at her June 19th memorial gathering at the church on Franklin Street hosted by Senior & Disability Action, and on the 20th at the church on Church(!) hosted by her son, Josh Harris, celebrating a woman who was well known and admired for her strengths in every circle in which she traveled.

Rest in peace, Lurilla!

photo from a Bernal Journal article in 1987, introducing the readership to new editor Lurilla Haris. Click here to read the article!

photo from a Bernal Journal article in 1987, introducing the readership to new editor Lurilla Harris. Click here to read the article!