Official Obituary of

Joan Harris

December 17, 1934 ~ March 27, 2024 (age 89) 89 Years Old

Joan Harris Obituary

December is renowned for its picturesque snowfall, heralding the festive holiday season and commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. However, for Rachel Jones Jackson and her husband Julian Jackson, December 17, 1934, marked an occasion of profound significance—the birth of their second daughter JOAN JACKSON. Tragically, Rachel passed away unexpectedly at the age of 25, leaving Julian to raise their two young daughters, Ernestine, aged four, and Joan, just two. Following their mother's untimely passing. Ernestine and Joan nurtured a profound and enduring bond of love that defies explanation. Rarely will you encounter two sisters who share a connection as heartfelt and strong as theirs.

During her one year stay in Daytona Beach, Florida, Joan lived with her Aunt Mary Lizzie. She attended church consistently and accepted Christ, embracing Him as her personal Savior at the young age of 10. Upon returning to Apopka, Joan and Ernestine began devoting much of their time to looking after the growing family of their four brothers and six sisters, who were the children of her father Julian and second wife, Gwendolyn Smith. Their large family dwelling became affectionately known as the Cabbage Patch.

Joan attended Apopka Colored School during her elementary years and in 1953 graduated from Hungerford High School located in Eatonville, Florida. Joan and Sandy actual met in elementary school at Apopka Colored School. Ernestine recalls how while washing dinner dishes together at home, Joan would complain about “this old boy keeps teasing me, untying and tying the sash of my dress to the seat of my desk!” Ernestine would get so angry that she wanted to hit that boy!  Little did both sisters know that, “that old boy” was a young Sandy Harris and unbeknownst to Joan, her future husband!

After graduating from high school, Joan started working at Baywood Nursery, putting in 40 hours a week for a weekly wage of just $18! Among her colleagues was Sandy Harris, who took an interest in the charming, petite, and reserved Joan, repeatedly inviting her out to the movies. Recalling his unwelcome advances in elementary school, she initially declined. Despite her rebuff,  Sandy's persistence paid off and Joan eventually agreed to go out with him. Following a lengthy courtship, Joan and Sandy were married in 1957. A loving union that would endure for nearly 67 years!

In 1958, their first child, Antonio Gerard Harris was welcomed! While earning very low wages and having to live with family members, Joan and Sandy became a part of the Great Northward Migration. The Great Northward Migration was where Blacks were leaving the South in search of a better life. They were in pursuit of economic and educational opportunities and to obtain freedom from oppression of the Jim Crow South. Sandy made the decision to leave Apopka on a long four-day train ride, heading to Portland, Oregon where three of his sisters (Ruth Ann, Essie and Jessie) had already relocated.  Sandy vividly remembers his arrival date of August, 18, 1960.  After quickly securing employment and saving a “few dollars” Sandy sent for his wife and 18-month-old son Antonio whom arrived on October 3, 1960. In 1962, their second son, Duane Arnaz Harris was born and their cohesive family unit was complete.

Throughout her career, Joan was employed at First Interstate Bank (now Wells Fargo). For twenty years, she dedicated her work to Portland Public Schools, serving as a Teacher’s Aide at Irvington School and as an administrative assistant at Boise Eliot Elementary School.

Joan and Sandy dedicated themselves to diligently saving every penny they earned to contribute to the down payment on their first and only home. In 1964, their efforts paid off when they were able to purchase the historic house located at 735 NE Webster Street. The couple's home was filled with love, nurturing, prayers, patience and deep understanding. Joan embodied a mother's love, living by the biblical principles she taught, offering compassion, peace, and joy with integrity, elegance, and grace. She ensured her sons embraced Jesus Christ as their Savior and always showed reverence to Christ in prayer, even before meals. Together, Joan and Sandy, along with their sons, religiously attended church and Sunday School, instilling in them a profound respect and fear of God, shaping them into respected Christian men today.

In 1964, the Harris family became members of Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church, under the leadership of the late Dr. O.B. Williams. Joan actively participated in various ministries within the church, including serving on Usher Board #2, singing with the William Choralers Choir, teaching the Adult Sunday School class, serving as Den Mother for Boy Scouts Troop #152, and engaging in the Women’s Mission Circle. Meanwhile, Sandy took on the role of Superintendent of the Sunday School Department. The couple frequently attended the National Sunday School Congress conventions and the National Baptist Convention. Joan demonstrated a deep passion for teaching the word of God and exemplified the principles she imparted.

After dedicating 28 years to worshipping and serving at Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church, Joan joined Mt. Olivet Baptist Church under the leadership of Dr. James Martin. Throughout her 32 years tenure, Joan actively operated in various roles within the church. Notably, she sang in the Church Choir, was a dedicated Sunday School teacher, served as an In-take Counselor, a Cell Group/Life Group Leader, and also fulfilled duties as a part-time Church Receptionist. However, Joan often said one of the greatest joys in fulfilling her spiritual gift service was teaching the Children’s New Members Class as she shared God’s plan of salvation to young candidates for baptism. When her illness prevented attending in-person church service, Joan was on her laptop every Sunday and as she said, “I’m going to church.”

Joan and Sandy were strong believers of “family helping family”.  In 1968, they opened their home to Joan’s sister Ernestine and Sandy’s brother Charlie, along with their two children Lynette and Derrick.  This extension of the Harris Family had also relocated to Portland from Apopka, Florida to start a new life.  The combined family of eight shared the home on Webster Street, which was full of life and “busyness!”  The four parents were strong in discipline, along with the “butt jumper” kept in the kitchen broom closet.  The belief of helping each other continued as niece Kimberly “Machelle” Murray arrived at the Harris home early every morning at 5 am.  Machelle was dropped off by her mother, Essie Murray (Sandy’s sister), and would nap with her favorite blanket and pillow in front of the living room heat vent until it was time for breakfast and Auntie Joan to take her to school.  Later, the four parents welcomed the last son/nephew Dean.  They continued to do whatever was needed to raise five kids who all became God loving adults.

As the family continued to grow and next generations formed, Joan affectionately became known as “Nana” to treasured grandchildren, great-grandchildren and extended family members.

Joan will forever be cherished for her loyalty, gentle demeanor, compassionate spirit, warm smile and dedication to educating others about God's teachings, both to children and adults. She found great joy in guiding new believers towards salvation before their baptism! Her legacy also includes her delectable sweet potato pies, black-eyed peas, lemon meringue pies, homemade biscuits, fried fish, grits and much more!

For eight years, Joan courageously battled the crippling effects of Parkinson’s disease. Sandy was diligently at his wife’s side morning, noon and night. But as her health began to further decline, the need for home caregivers arose.   Her primary caregiver was a loving and absolutely wonderful Visiting Angel, Lynn Miller.  Lynn frequently utilized Face Time to facilitate regular interactions between Joan and Ernestine, thereby further nurturing that enduring bond that was a major part of their existence. Later, granddaughter Joy Skidmore became the weekend caregiver and Nana received even more love and attention.  Of course, daughter-in-law, Donna was there cooking delicious meals throughout the years!  Diana Gulchak, Rose Mashia Jones, Linda Mashia Jones and Lucy Mashia also provided ongoing care, companionship and attending to all of Joan’s needs. Son, Antonio and every caregiver were amazed at how Joan would very slowly bend to her knees every night and pray to God! Illness could not prevent her life-long faithful prayer life!

Joan peacefully departed this life in the predawn hours of Wednesday, March 27, 2024, while asleep, to be embraced by her beloved Jesus. A woman of unwavering faith, Joan's oft-repeated words were: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth, there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day." (II Timothy 4:7-8)

Joan is preceded in death by her parents Rachel Jones Jackson, Julian Jackson, brothers, Bobby Jackson, Russell Jackson, Rodney Jackson, Michael Jackson, and sister, Yvonne Jackson Brown, all of Apopka, Florida.

Joan leaves to cherish her precious memory: Devoted husband, Sandy Harris; beloved son Antonio Harris and wife Donna Harris, Portland, Oregon; beloved son, Duane Harris, Vancouver, Washington; daughter, Cassandra Johnson, Plymouth, Florida.  Sisters: Ernestine Harris, Gilbert, Arizona; Beverly Charlton, Apopka, Florida; Alfreida Jackson, Apopka, Florida; Marva Jackson, Apopka, Florida and Sherrell Dizer, Fairview, Oregon.  Godson, Jonathan Johnson; Grandson, James Walker, Casselberry, Florida; Granddaughters: Renee Frett, Bossier City, Louisiana; Courtnie Frett, Bossier City, Louisiana; Karis Stoudamire-Phillips (Mike), Portland, Oregon; Janielle Harris Ford (Glancie) Tacoma, Washington; Joy Harris Skidmore (Andrew), Portland, Oregon; Regina Harris Wilson, (Junior), Auburn, Washington. Great-Grandchildren: Willie Maxwell, Jr., Layla Ford, Caiden Harris, Josiah Skidmore, LaGhea Skidmore, Karmelo Wilson, Michael Phillips, Jr., Tyson Phillips, Xavier Walker, Jasmine Jones and Nova. Four generations of nieces, nephews, loving cousins, forever close friends and loyal caregiver, Lynn Miller.

The sincere, unadulterated, Godly love that Joan has shared will always remain in the hearts of those who had the privilege of being a part of her life.

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Public Viewing
April 8, 2024

4:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Terry Family Funeral Home
2337 N. Williams Ave
Portland, OR 97227

Public Viewing
April 9, 2024

9:00 AM to 10:00 AM
Mt. Olivet Baptist Church
8501 N Chautauqua Blvd.
Portland, OR 97217

Funeral Service
April 9, 2024

10:00 AM
Mt. Olivet Baptist Church
8501 N Chautauqua Blvd.
Portland, OR 97217

April 9, 2024

1:00 PM
Skyline Memorial Gardens
4101 NW Skyline Blvd.
Portland, OR 97229


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