One life affected many others
Who: Sally Horne Harris of Loch Lloyd Age: 64 When and how she died: Jan. 9 of melanoma The early years: Sally Horne Harris grew up in Saginaw, Mich., and studied economics at the University of Michigan. There, she met her first husband, Joe Williamson. They moved a lot because Williamson was in the Army. Wherever they went, Harris taught high school math. While they were in Pennsylvania, son Brad was born. Three years later, in Ohio, daughter Sheri was born. The family moved to Kansas City in 1974, when Williamson became sales director at radio station KBEQ. By then, their marriage was falling apart. Harris began thinking about doing something else. Striking out on her own: Newly divorced, Harris decided to go to law school at the University of Kansas. Living on a tiny income, she moved her two children into a Lenexa apartment so they would be in the Shawnee Mission School District and she would be closer to Lawrence. She borrowed from her father for school, paying him back with interest once she graduated. It was a trying time, but her children didn’t realize it then, son Brad Williamson said. Later in life, Brad Williamson asked his mother how she managed it, and she told him that she knew it was temporary and that life would be better for the family if she could make it through those three years. Harris excelled in law school, passed the bar exam and took a job with the Overland Park firm of Wallace, Saunders, Austin, Brown and Enochs, becoming the firm’s first female attorney and one of the first in Johnson County. She eventually made partner and met her second husband, Brad Harris, who at the time was clerking for the firm while in law school. The two married in 1980. Brad Harris said that when he entered the family’s life, Sally’s kids were 8 and 11 and very independent. Brad Williamson agreed, explaining that his mother’s parenting philosophy was to encourage her children to own their lives and decisions. She encouraged them to think for themselves. Helping others: Sally Harris rose to prominence as a malpractice lawyer. She also served seven terms on the Kansas Board for the Discipline of Attorneys. The family moved to Leawood and also had a home at the Lake of the Ozarks, indulging Sally Harris’ love of the water. They recently moved to Loch Lloyd. In 2008, Harris learned she had a rare form of subcutaneous melanoma, a form of skin cancer. The cancer was aggressive, and Harris scaled back her legal career to focus on treatment and other things. Sill, she needed something constructive to do, so she sought out Literacy Kansas City, which pairs tutors with adults who are functionally illiterate. Harris worked one-on-one with an adult student, meeting her twice a week for 90 minutes. “It’s something she got so much enjoyment out of,” Brad Harris said of his wife. Sally Harris fought her illness with everything she had, even traveling to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle for treatment. In the end, it was futile, Brad Williamson said. Even as she lay dying, Harris had a list of things to finish, including what to do about her literacy student, said Mark Bertrand, Literacy Kansas City’s executive director. Harris found the answer in her husband. He promised to finish the job. Survivors include: Her husband, son and daughter; four grandchildren; her mother; three brothers; a niece; and four nephews. The last word: In one of her final calls to Literacy Kansas City, Sally Harris established a memorial fund in her name. Her obituary, which she wrote, urged friends and relatives to donate. The response has been amazing — about $10,000 has come in, $25 and $50 at a time, Bertrand said. “Every day we continue to get checks,” he said. “She really impacted a lot of people.” To suggest community members to profile, send e-mail to email@example.com.
A memorial fund in Sally Harris’ name so far has raised about $10,000 for Literacy Kansas City.