John J. Harris

Corning, Iowa

Mar 23, 1929 – Feb 22, 2009 (Age 79)


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Burial of cremains will be at the Walnut Grove Cemtery in Corning, Iowa at a later date. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to the Corning Education Foundation, Alegent Health Mercy Hospital Foundation, the Corning Public Library and/or the First Presbyterian Church in Corning. John James Harris, son of John Fitzpatrick and Gladys Harris, was born March 23, 1929 in Concord, New Hampshire. John died Sunday, February 22, 2009 at Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska at the age of seventy-nine years, eleven months and two days. In 1936, Gladys became the housekeeper for Crosby Lewis on a farm in rural Concord. Crosby's children, John and Ellen Lewis became like siblings, since John J. was an only child. The two Johns were inseparable in work and play. Gladys and John later moved to Concord, where John participated in football, wrestling, and track; he specialized in the hammer throw. After graduation from Concord High, John and friend, Paul, attended Grinnell College on football scholarships. They traveled west from N. H. to Iowa via the train, looking out the windows so they could see the "cowboys and Indians"! After that, they usually hitchhiked the 1300 miles. John met sophomore Elisabeth Katz the end of his freshman year. On September 3, 1949, John and Beth were united in marriage in Chicago, Illinois. John dropped out of college and worked several jobs so Beth could graduate. Beth taught John how to drive a car after he was hired to work in a gas station! Beth graduated in 1951, and then she worked so John could finish his college degree. Debbie was born in Grinnell in 1951. John graduated in 1952 with a Bachelor's Degree and coaching endorsement, later receiving his Master's Degree at NWMS. John's first teaching job was in Baldwin, Iowa. Believe it or not, he coached boys and girls basketball! John, Beth and Debbie, moved to Corning in 1954. Leslie was born that year and Wendy in 1958. John spent 55 years as a teacher, coach, and Athletic Director for the Corning School District. He coached Junior High and High School football, baseball, wrestling and cross country. In 1955, John started the Red Raider Wrestling Tournament. In 1986 the tournament was renamed in his honor and continues to be one of the premier wrestling events in the state of Iowa. John formally retired in 1991, remaining the Athletic Department Liaison until his death. John was known by his whistle, grin, ring thumps, muffin bread and VW Bugs that hauled baseball equipment and students. A man who grew up without a father, was indeed a father figure and mentor to many generations, including his assistant wrestling coaches. John will be missed, but not forgotten. John was a member of the First Presbyterian Church in Corning, the Hospital Foundation, the Corning Educational Foundation, the Iowa Athletic Directors Association, the Iowa Wrestling Coaches Association, Adams Community Ambassadors, the Corning Opera House Board and Rotary. John's tireless service and leadership with many organizations was recognized by numerous local, state and national awards throughout his life. Proceeding John in death were his mother in 1991 and wife, Beth, in 2001. John is survived by three daughters: Debbie (husband Dave) Eggers of Papillion, Nebraska, Leslie (husband Jack) Jeatran of Menomonie, Wisconsin and Wendy (husband Mike) Butler of Burnsville, Minnesota; five grandchildren: Kristen (husband Aaron) Mead, Jonathan (wife Nichole) Eggers, Brette Jeatran (fiance` Drew Garnatz), Tara Jeatran and Blair Butler; three great-grandchildren: Rhys Harris Mead, Meaghan Mead, and Addison Eggers. Thank you to the medical professionals, caregivers, and friends who were such an important part of John's life.

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