Lois Carter Harris is text-friendly great grandmother.
She’ll be turning 88 next week and uses technology to stay in touch with her family members that are spread across the U.S. She admits to loving her Macbook and Iphone. Her family says she can send pictures and text as fast as anyone.
A text message by The Tribune was sent to Harris on Monday April 15 to confirm an interview. Within minutes Harris responded.
Back in 1943, Harris was a spunky 18-year-old who made her way to Elkin from South Dakota.
“I fell in love with this area,” said Harris of Jonesville. “Like many others, I had to work and was grateful for the people that helped me get a job. Coming from South Dakota, Elkin was considered a big city move.”
Harris reflected that as a senior in high school in South Dakota, she took a test, and they allowed her to teach in a one-room school house.
“I was the cook, the nurse, the maintenance man, and yeah, I was its teacher. I realized that the craziness from doing so many tasks was not it,” she said.
Born in St. Lawrence, S.D., Harris is one of 11 children. She was married for 67 years to her soul-mate E. L. Harris until his death in 2011. The couple met at Chatham Manufacturing in Elkin.
“He was kind and very handsome,” she said. “I miss him.
“He said he didn’t want to go, but he was at peace with his illness,” shared Harris. “My husband did water aerobics, too. I remember him saying that he was confident I was prepared to carry on and would know of the right decisions to make.”
“The joy of the companionship was shown through them both, both talking about memories reflecting on growing up,” shared Joan Sanders of Elkin, a friend of the Harris. “They shared music, and painting; that relationship went far deep.”
E.L would soon leave Chatham Manufacturing to work for the U.S. Postal Service. Harris shifted to work at Walker’s Five and Dime in downtown Elkin.
“We bought a house. We both had to work to make ends meet,” said Harris. “And neither of us complained about it.”
Harris has two children; Becky Harris Padgett of Birmingham, Ala., and the late Larry L. Harris.
Four grandchildren keep Harris very well grounded, she sayd.
“We’re blessed,” said Jordan Padgett when talking about his grandmother. “She’s the kindest person you’ll know.”
“She’s inspiring,” said granddaughter Lindsey Padget. “She’s a woman of God and someone I aspire being like.”
Jordan Padgett, Lindsey Padgett, Sarah Caroline Padgett, Michelle Conaway, Kim Harris (deceased) round off the grandchildren. Harris has one great grandchild, Sophia Conaway.
“Her grandchildren call her ‘Ne’, a name one of the grandchildren called her as a child and it stuck,” said daughter Becky Harris Padget.
“My mother has gone through lots of experiences and is such an amazing woman. I know that everyone out there can talk about their mother like I do, but really, she touches the life of so many people that recognizing her is perfect timing,” continued Becky.
Harris eventually left the Five and Dime and was manager of the Jonesville School lunchroom for more than a decade until she decided to go to college after encouragement from her mother. She attended Surry Community College, then commuted to Appalachian State University where she completed her bachelor’s in elementary education in 1971.
Harris became a teacher at Rhonda-Clingman Elementary for 21 years before retiring in 1992.
“I’ll have none of this stuff,” Harris objected on questions about her past. “You start asking questions on volunteering, or I’m done. I don’t like to give recognition to myself.”
Becky said her mother continues to actively travel and see her sisters and brothers in Mesa, Arizona and Seattle, Wash., as well as her daughter and grandchildren ins Atlanta, Ga. and Birmingham, Ala.
According to Becky, her mother starts early each day with her Bible reading and writing in her journal.
“She has journaled daily for 10 years and read her Bible completely from Genesis … every year many, many times,” said Becky.
“Oh my, that’s true. I do journal each day and have read the Bible over and over. Now how in the world did you find out all this stuff about me?” pressed Harris.
From friends too. Harris has lots of them willing to share.
“She has a sense of humor. I know her from water aerobics. Harris is full of spunk,” said Anne Gulley. “I recognize the mid-western spunk. She is not afraid and lives her life. She’s fearless about what she attempts. We introduced books to each other that you wouldn’t expect from an 88 year old.”
“I asked everyone at water aerobics if you’ve talked to them and everyone denied it,” said Harris. Harris goes to water aerobics class three days a week at the Wellness Center.
“Harris and I first met in 1971 at Ronda-Clingman Elementary School. … As we learned more about our friends and families our relationship grew stronger. She has a unique style of telling stories. … But Harris has been there for people. Harris frequently sat with me in the hospital after son, Mike, was critically injured in a car wreck. When my son came home, every week Harris and E.L. would visit my home to help with Mike…thank you to our Savior who has loved me so much that he gave us Harris,” wrote Jewel Allen, a good friend.
Allen’s testimony on Harris was three pages long, handwritten, saying she was totally unable to sum up their relationship in a paragraph. The Tribune will release the full statement to Harris post-publication.
Harris volunteers at the Hugh Chatham Hospital in Elkin for the Operating Room Information Center. She also volunteers in the hospital gift shop.
Harris visits local nursing homes, delivering magazines, homemade cakes for the residents.
Harris is an active member of her church, Jonesville First Baptist, where she continues to teach Sunday School. She has been teaching either on the elementary floor or in the adult classes for 60 years.
Church officials say Harris draws her strength from her faith and positive attitude.
“She’s been so gracious, her journey, her role as a member. She gives gifts to our youth, and they love going to here home,” said youth Pastor Pam Anthony of the First Baptist Church in Jonesville. “The thing I always worry about in going to her home with the kids is that she has nice stuff and I’m afraid someone will break something.”
“Harris is a very elegant lady in our church family that shows the love of Christ in all that she does,” said Arvilene “Cricket” Gilliam, secretary at the First Baptist Church in Jonesville. “One of her passions in the church is our Stanley Martin Memorial Library. She has devoted much of her time in keeping our library up to date with the newest inspirational readings that are available. Her smile and lovely laugh always makes any of my days better.”
“I love reading,” said Harris. “I really like volunteering too. It is the most satisfying thing that I do. I can pay back for what I have. I can share. I feel as if I’ve been so blessed. I had a wonderful husband, a great life.”
Though 88 years old, Harris says she’s not going anywhere.
“My mother, Maude Carter, lived until she was 105-years-old. I wonder what the next 20 years will be like. We’re going to go so far out and they’ll be lots of changes, but my age demographic has to adapt.”
In her final statement to The Tribune, Harris stated that she wishes everybody had that peace that she feels.
“I am so happy to make a difference int he lives of people. The Lord has worked inside of me to do volunteer service,” she said.
Reach Anthony Gonzalez at 336-835-1513 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org