William H. Harris, a Kent Island waterman known as Captain Bill who established an oyster and crab business, died of cancer Tuesday at his Chester home. He was 83.
Born in Queen Anne's County, the son of an Eastern Shore waterman, he attended elementary schools in Chester and Stevensville until the eighth grade. At age 14, he began oystering, clamming and crabbing on his own. During World War II he served in an Army artillery unit in the Pacific.
After the war he returned to Chester and continued work on the water and also briefly ran a general store.
In 1947, he founded W. H. Harris Seafood Processing Company at Kent Narrows. He bought oysters and clams, which his employees shucked and sold. He sold the seafood to food purveyors throughout the country and Canada.
"Everybody here seemed to know him and respect him," said Garry Reamy, manager of Holly's Restaurant on U.S. 50.
In 1981, he founded Harris Crab House, a 50-seat restaurant adjacent to the oyster processing plant. He initially sold steamed crabs and clams and platters of raw oysters. In his second season, he added crab cakes and other fried items. Restaurant patrons often arrived by boat at the restaurant, which faces Kent Narrows.
He retired in 1982 and family members continue to run the business.
He decided not to stop working and spent summers and early falls crabbing from his boat, the Rebel. He also mowed the grass on several rental properties he owned. One day a week, he served as a director of the Centreville National Bank and reviewed loan applications and conducted other bank business.
"He had been a hard worker all his life and didn't like stopping," said his daughter, Karen Harris Oertel of Centreville.
Mr. Harris was a member of the Grasonville post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Kent Island American Legion and Centreville Masonic Lodge.
He was a lifetime member of the Kent Island Volunteer Fire Department and was a past director of its auxiliary marching group.
Services were held yesterday in Chester.
In addition to his daughter, survivors include his wife of 64 years, the former Violet Mae Coleman; a son, William Jerry Harris of Centreville; a sister, Rita Harris Stowe of Chester; five grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.