Mildred Shall Harris dies at age 90

Longtime Veterans Hospital volunteer was a Coppin State University financial analyst and foster mother

April 15, 2010|By Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun

Mildred S. Harris, a retired bookkeeper and community volunteer who raised five foster children, died of heart failure April 7 at her Pikesville home. She was 90.

Born Mildred Shall in West Philadelphia, she was the daughter of Eastern European immigrants. Her father ran a candy store and was a garment worker.

She was a graduate of Overbrook High School in Philadelphia. During World War II, she worked as a Philadelphia Navy Yard bookkeeper and later planned events for a caterer.

She spent her summers at Atlantic City, N.J., and while on the beach she met her future husband, Melvin Harris, a Baltimorean and civilian Army employee.

"There were groups of guys from Baltimore and groups of girls from Philadelphia," said her son, Bruce Harris of Pikesville.

After marrying and moving to Baltimore's Park Circle, she lived for nearly four decades on Bonnie Road in Northwest Baltimore.

She was a bookkeeper and financial analyst for what is now Coppin State University and earlier had worked for the state's Department of Assessments and Taxation.

After her son was born, Mrs. Harris suffered several miscarriages and the death of a week-old son.

"She loved children and contacted the Jewish Family and Children's Agency. Over a 15-year period, she and my father were foster parents to five other children," said her son. "She had a big heart, and when she was asked to take in a 17-year-old girl who was pregnant with twins, she opened her door."

Her son said several of the children stayed for a couple of years, but three of her foster children regarded her as their mother and as grandmother to their children.

After her husband, who was disabled during World War II, became a patient at a local veterans hospital, Mrs. Harris resolved to work for sick veterans to show her appreciation. She worked for more than 25 years at veterans hospitals in Loch Raven and downtown Baltimore. She brought books and periodicals and cheered up those sitting in waiting rooms. She was honored in 2007 for giving 5,700 hours of service.

Mrs. Harris also volunteered at the Chimes of Maryland and was a pen pal with some of its clients.

She was a member for more than 40 years of the Rogers Avenue Synagogue Sisterhood and joined the Beth Jacob and Beth Tfiloh sisterhoods after the congregations merged.

She was an active member for more than 30 years of the Jewish War Veterans Auxiliary, including the Star of David Post and the Roger Snyder Post. She was a Veterans Association representative for many years and at the time of her death was its deputy.

She was a member for more than 30 years of the Disabled American Veterans Auxiliary.

She was a volunteer for Democratic candidates from the 1960s through 2006. She was a poll worker and captain at Northwestern High School and recruited others to distribute campaign literature.

Mrs. Harris loved beaches and swimming. She often returned to Atlantic City for vacations and was a member of the Milford Mill Swim Club for nearly 35 years and the Pikesville Hilton Pool for another 10 years. After giving up her home on Bonnie Road, she moved to the 7 Slade Avenue condo because of its pool.

She learned to play mah-jongg in her 80s and played at the Myerberg Senior Center.

Services were held Tuesday at Sol Levinson & Bros.

In addition to her son, survivors include a brother, Joseph Shall of Philadelphia; a sister, Sylvia Greene of Boynton Beach, Fla.; two granddaughters; two foster daughters, Joy Goldfin of Houston and Pam Lafferman of Costa Mesa, Calif., and their three daughters. Her husband of 34 years died in 1986. A foster son, Bradley Schwartz, died in 2005.

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