Richard K. Harris

Obituary
  • "Richard lives on in the New Mexico Book Association Honors..."
    - Sally Blakemore
  • "Annie"
  • "My Dear Richard -On this Thanksgiving Day two years now..."
  • "Remi survived his first year without you because he carries..."
  • "Remember always that you are loved."

Richard K. Harris Age 64, passed away on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2011, at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Like the accidental tourist in Ann Tyler's famous novel, Harris never planned on becoming one of America's most widely read and respected travel writers. In a landscape crowded with brand names like Frommer and Fodor, Harris, based for 30 years in Santa Fe, preferred working out of the limelight as his books guided travelers through sites from the Pacific Northwest to Belize. Former president of the New Mexico Book Association and PEN New Mexico, he was widely considered the preeminent author of guides to the American Southwest and Mexico. A writer and editor of more than 250 books, he was an authority on such destinations as New Mexico, Arizona, the Northwest, Texas, Florida, Yosemite, Baja, the Yucatan, Puerto Vallarta, Guatemala, Belize, and the Bahamas. The majority of guides to the Yucatan also were written, edited, or updated by him. Harris edited and produced numerous titles as well, most famously a slim guide called 2 to 22 Days in Europe that helped launch the writing and television career of tour guide Rick Steves. Equally at home designing books and discussing copyright questions, he lectured widely at writing and publishing conferences. His publishers included John Muir Publications, Ulysses Books, RDR Books, Insight, Globe-Pequot, John Wiley, Gibbs Smith, Insider, Access, and AAA. Harris held positions as production editor at John Muir Publications, production manager at Mothering magazine, and managing editor of RDR Books, where he edited The Lexicon, a guide to the Harry Potter novels published in 2009, following a historic fair use case brought by J.K. Rowling. Recently Harris co-wrote the screenplay for Steve Faulkner's Waterwalk, a book he had edited. Born on October 22, 1947 in Madison, Wisconsin, to Ruth and Carl Harris, he began life with the flair of a little genius. As an infant residing in a tiny trailer, his brilliance was apparent to a French neighbor, who nicknamed him "le petit professeur." To his parents' surprise, he was reading newspapers by age three. During his teen years, while living in Evergreen, Colorado, Harris discovered the joys of Shakespeare, soon becoming a Shakespearean actor. By then, he had taken to exploring remote mountain roads by motor scooter. While at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, he earned pocket money transporting tourists up Pikes Peak. He graduated cum laude, no surprise for a young man who had enrolled with perfect SAT scores. He received an ROTC lieutenant's commission, subsequently earning a scholarship to law school at the University of Missouri in Kansas City and later practicing law in Colorado Springs. After nine years of slugging it out as a defense attorney, Harris and a partner became involved in air show productions and spectacular sound and light shows for concerts across America and Canada. After a solo driving expedition in Mexico while heading back to Colorado, Harris stopped in Santa Fe, where he found his home base for life. There he met publisher John Muir and editor Ken Luboff, assisted them in figuring out the company's new digital typesetting computer, and was soon hired as a production editor and travel writer for John Muir Productions Once engaged in these pursuits he knew he'd found his true career. Soon other publishers and magazine editors recruited him for writing projects. Harris's greatest love was watching others succeed. Helping beginning writers through the New Mexico Book Association, and together with his longtime partner Ellen Kleiner who is director of Blessingway Authors' Services, Harris helped launch the careers of many now successful writers. He had a love for dogs, especially big ones with troubled pasts, ultimately reforming two such animals: Oso, a giant Bernese Mountain Dog, and Remington, an Australian Cattle Dog who refused to leave his side until Harris had released his last breath. Harris's commitment to writing and the creative arts became an inspiration for his family. His sister Bev Harris wrote Black Box Voting, the subject of an Emmy-nominated HBO documentary; sister Tamalyn Dallal, an internationally renowned dancer and teacher, wrote three books and currently travels the world capturing rare ethnic dance video footage. Harris developed a talent for photography, inspired by his father's outstanding landscape photographs. His father, Carl Harris, followed his son's writing career proudly and became a writing teacher himself at the age of 80, publishing his memoirs at age 86. His niece, Erika Hayasaki, a former 10-year reporter for the Los Angeles Times, is currently a professor of journalism at California State-Irvine. Harris is survived by parents Carl and Ruth, brothers Terry and Lee, sisters Bev and Tamalyn, two nieces, three nephews, partner Ellen Kleiner, and his loyal dog Remington. They wish to thank the many dear friends who expressed support to Richard during his last weeks; Sol Amor and Ambercare Hospice; and especially Consuelo Lopez, who provided care, compassion, and daily assistance as Richard prepared for his final Journey. In lieu of flowers, family members ask that donations be made to Ambercare Hospice in Santa Fe.

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