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Class of 1929
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Story ran on January 31, 2000
VOLUNTEER OF THE WEEK
(A Great Kewpie-Class of 1929)
Ethel Harris has been a volunteer with Boone County Council on Aging and RSVP’s "America Reads" program since its inception two years ago. RSVP — Retired and Senior Volunteer Programs — helps individuals age 55 and older match their talents, time and interests to meet community needs through volunteering. They do what they want to do and choose when they want to do it.
Every Friday morning Ethel goes to West Boulevard Elementary School to help a second-grade girl with her reading. "We go into the library, and she chooses books to read to me," explains Ethel. "Then I may stop and ask her to think up a sentence and write it so she can learn to keep her letters on the line and keep spaces between the words." Ethel, a former teacher, prefers working one-on-one "but sometimes I have two." There are more students that want the help than there are volunteers to do it, and she feels fortunate to be able to serve in such a rewarding capacity. "The kids just brighten up when I walk in the room."
Ethel was born in Howard County on her great-grandfather’s Missouri River bottoms homestead farm. Her father "got tired of seeing his crops fall in the river," so he sold the farm and moved to Boone County. After graduating from Warrensburg Teachers College, she began teaching at the one-room Carlisle School, which she had attended as a girl. The former Ethel Lloyd married James Harris in 1934, which meant she had to quit teaching. "You couldn’t be married and teach in those days."
When the youngest of her three daughters was in kindergarten, Ethel went to work at Stephens College as an administrative assistant to John Decker until his retirement, then stayed on with Gene Schmidtlein. At the age of 65, she retired as a full-time employee in 1975 but went back on a temporary basis until 1985. Her husband passed away in 1980.
At age 88, Ethel remains a busy lady. She has been on The Senior Center’s library committee since it opened and is also a volunteer at the Wardrobe. A longtime and active member of First Baptist Church, she has cut back on what she does there. However, she does serve as a "grandmother figure" every Thursday in the church’s Child Development Center. She also enjoys "playing bridge a lot."
Ethel still drives her own car and keeps her own home, although she does admit to "having a woman come in and vacuum once a month." And she tries to have the two granddaughters who live here over once a week for lunch. All three of her daughters graduated from Stephens College. The oldest, Marilyn Newton, is in Richmond, Va.; Nancy Joy is in Great Falls, Mont.; and the youngest, Kay Benedict, lives in Columbia. Virginia and Montana are not out of visiting range for Ethel, who enjoys flying.
Independent in her personal life, Ethel Harris is helping
this young second-grade girl to independence as well, for nothing is more
necessary to one’s success in life than the ability to read.
By IRENE HASKINS