Obituary of Richard E. Harris
Richard Elton Harris of Trumbull, Connecticut died peacefully the early spring morning of April 26, 2022. A math teacher for 37 years, musician, photographer, and portrait artist, he was also a devoted father to four daughters, a proud and loving Gramp to seven grandchildren, a loyal friend to many, and a faithful pal to all the family pets through the years. Born in East Providence, Rhode Island, to Elton and Marjorie (Wynaught) Harris, Richard grew up both in town and at his beloved grandparents' farm on Cucumber Hill Road west of the city. He attended East Providence High School and Brown University, earning a bachelor's degree with a major in Art. In 1958, he met and married Sandra (Castle) Harris, a fellow teacher at the Tower School in Marblehead, Massachusetts. They were married until her death in 1996. She is loved and missed forever. In 1958, Richard was conscripted into the U.S. Army. He was stationed in Würzburg, Germany, where he served for 2 years. Among other roles, he served as director of the education center, where he helped service members complete their high school degrees. He also sang in the glee club and entertained his compatriots with the beloved guitar that shared his bunk crossing the Atlantic. Upon discharge from the Army, Richard resumed his teaching career in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. For a decade following, he taught math at Roslyn Junior High School on Long Island while earning a master's degree and developing side careers in entertainment, portrait art, and photography. During these years, his family grew to include four daughters. In the early 1970s, Richard ran and entertained at the Olde Inn (once the Southward Inn) on Cape Cod. Following this venture and returning to Connecticut, he was a math teacher for 20 years at Branford High School. Richard was a gifted musician with a prodigious memory for songs from many eras; he would easily transition from swing era hits to 60s and 70s folk rock songs to medleys from musicals to renditions of contemporary favorites and fun danceable numbers. His sense of humor and love for particular lyrics always accompanied his performances, and these, along with his beautiful voice and talents on the piano and guitar, garnered a loyal following on Long Island, Cape Cod, and for many years in Southern Connecticut. Nearly every weekend for decades Richard generated musical enjoyment and camaraderie at restaurants and inns, piano bars, weddings, and other special events. He was always ready to learn someone's favorite song or share the spotlight with a fellow music enthusiast. Richard made special efforts to entertain the youngest and oldest music fans, delighting children with interactive songs at community and family events, and for decades, regularly warming the hearts of nursing home residents with music they first loved during their own early years. Richard also inspired many with his pencil portraits and photography. As is evident in his sensitively captured photographs of the natural world and everyday life, his delicate drawings, and his love of music, Richard deeply appreciated life's small treasures and beauty. He loved baseball, his time on the golf course, and discussions about films and filmmaking. He treasured spending time with many dear friends, including friends he first met in grade school, high school, and college. His grandchildren particularly hold dear their memories of Gramp's storytelling and jokes at holiday dinners, his clever and hilarious puns, and "Do you know what ___ is backwards?" word challenges, with such revelations that stressed could become desserts by reversing one's perspective. End-of-meal songs, celebrated by the little ones with dancing by the piano, were always the bonus. Richard is greatly missed by his daughters, Susan Harris, Elizabeth Sagaser and her husband John, Sally McCauley, and Jane Luongo; by his grandchildren, Anna, Ted and his wife Dominika, Jack, Maggie, Sarah, Julia, and Kate; by a sister, Lois Coman and her husband Stuart and family; by dear friends; and by three very special dogs, Sailor, Small, and Zoey. A private family ceremony was held at Long Hill Cemetery in Trumbull on April 30. A Celebration of Life for friends and family will be held at Tashua Knolls Golf Course in Trumbull on September 25, 2022, at 11:00 a.m. Contributions in honor of Richard may be made to the ASPCA, the Audubon Society, or Save the Music Foundation.