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Joseph L. (Joe) Harrison R.I.P.
Written by Diana Thebaud Nicholson // September 23, 2009 // Absent Friends, People Meta // Comments Off on Joseph L. (Joe) Harrison R.I.P.
Sadly, Joe Harrison passed away in the early evening of September 22, 2009.
He was, thankfully, at home with his family and kept comfortable until he passed. He was ready to go, he said. [And, as we wrote to David, his son, if Joe said he was ready, nothing would have stopped him.]
Joe had a remarkable and eventful life, too varied to fully describe in this limited space.
As a child immigrant from Poland shortly after the WWI, Joe’s family first settled on a relative’s farm in Saskatchewan before moving to Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood where he attended high school at ‘Central Tech’.
It was there that he got the engineering bug, working in their shop on aircraft projects (he had always dreamed of flying someday).
When WWII broke out he (and his two brothers Mark and Sam) signed up and joined the war effort. `Joe eventually became a Squadron Leader in the RCAF, stationed in the U.K. His plane was disabled at one point, and crashed, killing all the crew except for himself (although he suffered serious injuries).
After the war, he enrolled in engineering studies at the University of Toronto, often contributing to ‘The Varsity’ newspaper as an opinionated contributing editor (his brother Mark – also a dear friend and our neighbor on Rosemount Avenue, thanks to Joe – went on to become a long-time managing editor at the Toronto Star and then the Montreal Gazette).
Joe entered the civil service after leaving the military, later instrumental in the promotion and adoption of Dehavilland’s STOL (short take-off and landing) aircraft systems (along with Cowboy Junkies singer Margo Timmins’ father!).
He met Mary Dunlop on a transatlantic ocean voyage and spent the next few years wooing her until she eventually married him and became Mary Harrison.
They produced three boys: Hugh and Jonathan (both of whom died tragically at a very young age) and David, the middle child.
Mary passed away, suddenly in her 64th year. True to her wishes, Joe remarried on his 80th birthday, to Fran Austdal, who cared for him and loved him dearly until his last moments.
After a long and distinguished career in government, Joe left for the world of private consultancy, thankfully before Mulroney’s Conservatives arrived and gutted the civil service- he spent many a night consoling his former colleagues, suddenly out of a job.
In his later years, Joe travelled and enjoyed life, spending winters in Ottawa and spring, summers and the fall at ‘The Rock’, Fran’s cottage on Lake Nippissing.
Joe had double bypass heart surgery in December of 2008, and after several weeks in intensive care, he made a remarkable recovery and eventually beat all the doctors’ predictions and was removed from dialysis treatment at the beginning of this summer.
He spent over a week up at The Rock in September, and on a routine visit back to Ottawa, his health took a sudden turn for the worst.
He died comfortably with his family at home and will be missed greatly.
For those who can attend, a Celebration of Joe’s life will be held at his residence, 54 Rideau Terrace, #2 in Ottawa on Sunday, October 4th at 2PM, to continue throughout the afternoon. Remembering Joe Harrison (1920-2009)
Dear Joe, he was a wonderful friend to our entire family from the day he walked into my life as the Federal representative on a task force set up to organize an opening day for the industry at Mirabel airport. He became a linchpin of the task force and helped to weld it into a delightful group of dedicated individuals who had a more than reasonable amount of fun while successfully meeting their objective. Joe was warm, funny, opinionated, passionate about ‘his’ industry, and utterly reliable. We loved him very dearly.