Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Tribute to Uncle Harris

Yesterday, I had the tremendous honor of speaking at the funeral of my Uncle Harris. I am one of the many nephews and nieces that experienced the blessing of having Uncle Harris in my life. As I walked into the funeral home in New Freedom Pennsylvania, I noticed a t.v. screen scrolling pictures of him with his family and I could hardly move because of the many memories that came rushing to my mind about my childhood with Uncle Harris and his first wife, my Aunt Betty, who died in an car accident when I was twenty-six.

As a young man, growing up without a dad, Uncle Harris, along with other uncles invested in my life like I was one of their sons, but I was not alone. The stories I shared at his funeral represented how he treated everyone: accepting, non-judgmental, uplifting, and fun.

It is no secret that Uncle Harris loved fishing – and not just a little, no, I mean he LOVED fishing; consequently, I loved fishing. One bright summer morning, after getting off work, I headed for Pretty Boy Damn to fish. This is where Uncle Harris’ fishing career began. I worked a night shift at a grocery store and often went fishing afterwards. That morning, I noticed his truck was parked at the boat loading dock. I figured if I made a dash down through the woods, I might just catch his attention. I did not want to assume he wanted a partner, so I reached the shoreline and cast out my line to act as if I just happened to be there. He did notice me and welcomed me into the boat. “Fishing has a lot to do with luck,” I reflected after not catching anything. He responded, “Luck favors a prepared mind.”  I have repeated that phrase more times than I can count. 

I recounted that story to Paul and he said, “yea, one time he asked me to get out of the boat and left me because I was talking too much.”

Which reminds me that he left me one time as well. He was driving my sisters and I on Mt Carmel Road one day and at a stop sign, we decide to do a Chinese Fire Drill, but he warned us not to. I jumped out of the car anyway and was running around to get in the other side when he drove off. I mean for real. He did come back, but not until I learned not to mess with him.

He loved cards, and my cousins and I spent many Friday evenings at his house playing cards. We started with Rook, but eventually learned Pinochle. It was during these late evenings that my uncle also taught me to enjoy the mature things of life, like drinking coffee without sugar.  “Son, real men don’t need sugar.”  He would say after watching me put the forth teaspoon in my cup.  Well, that did it for me; I wanted to be a real man like my uncle.

Uncle Harris lent me his single barrel 410 shotgun. Although he himself was not an avid hunter, he made sure I knew how to walk with a gun – finger off the trigger – pointed at the ground and not at a person – important things like that.

Uncle Harris invested in others. As an early teenager, he was the adult sponsor of our C.A. youth group (Christ Ambassadors). When I was twelve, he sponsored our singing group called The Salt and Pepper Plus. Brian, Alan, Mike, Donna and myself represented salt. Ronney was Pepper. The Plus of course, was Jesus. We traveled to a couple of small churches and sang songs like “I’ll Fly Away”, “The Healer”, “Oh Happy Day,” we even sang “Amazing Grace” to the tune of “House of the Rising Sun.”

Uncle Harris was our manager, which meant that he got 10% of whatever offering there was, and since we never got a real offering, we gave him 10% of the chicken we got at the church pot luck dinner. He didn’t care. He purchased sound equipment for us and proudly drove us around like we were the next Christian rock stars. 

My later memories involved pigeons – homing pigeons. He loved birds. He shared this love with his sons.

While in college, I would just show up at his home, as it was on the way to my mom’s home in Hereford, Maryland. We would sit and talk about fishing, pigeons or college and drink coffee. He would let me know he was proud of me and encourage me to keep going.

Most of life is simply showing up, and Uncle Harris did that for me and so many others. I was not the only kid he loved and invested in because there is a whole group of cousins who experienced his love. After the funeral, I met so many others who shared their stories similar to mine.  

His wife, Donna, and her son James experienced his warm embrace for his last twelve years. His charm never stopped.

He leaves a great legacy.

His last few years were not physically pleasant. He suffered with a disease that his body ultimately surrendered to.

Our family came together to celebrate a life well lived. We also grieve. We grieve the missed opportunities. We grieved the times we didn’t say “Thank you.” We grieve that he spent the last few years suffering in his body.

We grieve, but not as people without hope.

During the funeral I spoke about our earthly tents, our bodies, that eventually wear out and how we look forward to being with Jesus and our loved ones, without pain or suffering. 2 Corinthians 5, Hebrews 11, and John 14 help up understand a little about this hope and offers peace while we are still on earth.

I concluded the message with three simple lessons from Uncle Harris’ life:

  1. Teach me to number my days. Uncle Harris lived just seventy-one years, but he made each day count. We all have just a few trips around the sun, let’s make them count for something.
  2. Investing in the people around you makes a profound difference. The small, kind things we do for people are remembered and impacting.
  3. Luck favors a prepared mind. Uncle Harris prepared to catch fish therefore he caught fish. If luck favors a prepared mind, eternity favors a prepared heart.

Psalms 46:1-3, 7, 10-11
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

“Fish On” Uncle Harris. This world will miss you.

Harris Almony ObituaryHarris E. “Ed” Almony, 71, died Saturday, April 16, 2016, at home. He was the husband of Donna (Lutz) Almony and they celebrated 12 years of marriage in May, 2015. His first wife, Betty Wirtz Almony, preceded him in death.

Born February 23, 1945, in Parkton, MD, Ed was the son of the late Victor Jenkins and Helen (Harris) Almony. He proudly served in the U.S. Navy from June of 1963 to June 1969. Ed was employed at Northrup Grumman, Baltimore, for over 36 years, retiring as a manager. Passionate about fishing, Ed also raised pigeons in his younger years.

Surviving in addition to his wife are four children: Holly L. Farmer, and her husband Chad; Michael W. G. Almony, and his wife Rebecca; James K. Gillispie, and his wife (Stacy); and Victor P. Almony, and his fiancée, Melanie Markline; three siblings, James V. Almony, and his wife Joyce; Linda M. Cummings, and her husband Mickey; and Vickie C. Almony; 7 grandchildren.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so very much for posted this, Keith. I appreciate the opportunity to share this tribute with others, especially my son, Ryan, who already is missing his "Pap". Much love, Stacy Gillispie

Dr. Keith G Edwards said...

Thank you Stacy. What a humbling honor to speak at the funeral. I don't know if you saw my message on Sunday, but I honored Uncle Harris and preached on fishing.