Issue date: May 12, 1999

Harry Harrison does it all with a smile (May 12, 1999)

Harry Harrison does it all with a smile


Harry Harrison probably won't have time for a relaxing shower before the Golden Acorn dinner, where he'll accept the award for individual achievement in community service. In fact, he'll be lucky if he makes it to the event on time.

That day, Mr. Harrison will be taking a group of seniors from Peninsula Volunteers' Little House for some gambling at the Jackson Casino, about a three-hour drive from Menlo Park. Hopefully, he'll be back by 5 p.m., just enough time to "get bathed, shaved and ready to go," he says.

But a little rushing around is nothing unusual for Harry Harrison, whose schedule is jam-packed with community service, including involvement with Little House, the Menlo Park Historical Association, Farmers' Market and the Live Oaks Lions Club. "Somebody has to do these things," he says. Plus, he adds with a laugh, "My wife won't let me come home. If I get home early, she says 'Don't you have anything to do?'/t/"

Becca French, director of Little House, says that Mr. Harrison's a very active member of the organization, where he serves as vice president. "He never says no. He has strong values and ethics, and he stands behind his word." Plus, she adds, "He's got a great sense of humor."

Mr. Harrison is also no stranger to politics, having served on the city's Planning Commission from 1988 to 1996. It was an easy transition from his career as a builder, during which time he built 42 houses in Ladera and a "fair number" of other houses in the area. "If I'd been smart, I would've kept every third one," he says.

As a planning commissioner, Mr. Harrison played a role in the redesign of Fremont Park and Santa Cruz Avenue, narrowing the downtown strip from a four-lane road to a tree-lined, two-lane road with angled parking.

He even ran unsuccessfully for a spot on the City Council in 1997, but his loss doesn't keep him out of the Council Chambers. Instead, Mr. Harrison is a fixture at the council meetings, where his impromptu public comments often liven up the three-hour-long meetings.

As for losing a council seat -- he takes it as a blessing. "I found I had more time to do things constructively," he says, such as becoming one of five directors on the "infamous" West Bay Sanitary District, recently plagued by lawsuits and controversy. "It's a fouled-up affair, but I like challenges," he says.

On the weekends, Mr. Harrison spends many Sundays at the Farmers' Market, which supplies homeless organizations with unsold food and raises nearly $25,000 a year for the Lions Club -- another of Mr. Harrison's projects. "Everybody helps everybody," he says, referring to the way his volunteer efforts overlap.

Plus, working the Farmers' Market gives him a chance to get out in the city, where he admits knowing "most everyone." "I keep track of everybody. I've got Manila folders on everyone in town," he jokes.

But despite his strong presence in the community, Mr. Harrison shies away from the spotlight of the Acorn awards. He's just one person among dozens of volunteers, and he couldn't do anything without the help of others, he says.

"Harry has a great deal of empathy -- he's an all around great member," Ms. French says.

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