I didn't grow up knowing Harold Harris, Z"L. My parents became good friends with him and his wife Marcy after I was out of the house and out of the country. One of the things that they had in common were children and grandchildren in Israel. During our early years in Shiloh, Harold was an enthusiastic visitor. Those were the days when his two talented sons, Ruby and Rafael lived in Jerusalem. Whenever Harold and Marcy came to Israel to see their sons and grandchildren, they'd rent a car and come here to Shiloh. As happens many times, you never really get a chance to say goodbye. I always expected to see them here at another simcha, joyous occasion, but it never happened. Ruby sent me this obituary and picture. I'm posting them to take my leave of a special man and to send my most sincere condolences to his beloved family.
Harold H. Harris, early pioneer of modern life in Boro Park, Brooklyn, developer of "No Fault Insurance", and father of Chicago Klezmer and Blues musician Ruby Harris, dies at 89.
Harold H. Harris, early pioneer of modern life in Boro Park, Brooklyn, developer of "No Fault Insurance", and father of Chicago Klezmer and Blues musician Ruby Harris, died on January 19 in Del Ray Beach, Florida. He was 89 and had been living in Boynton Beach for the past 12 years.
Mr. Harris was born at home in Williamsburg, Brooklyn on June 16, 1917, and at a young age, moved with his family to Boro Park. "He described a much different Boro Park than the one that exists today" said Ruby Harris, his son. "There were no cars, just horse-and-buggies, if you can imagine that. He remembered the ice man's name, Tony, who would bring large blocks of ice up to the ice box. Also, this is before radio and records, when people basically entertained themselves, or they went to see Vaudeville shows. His father Dan, who worked for more than half a century at the New York Times in Manhattan in the linotype and production departments, took him to see the first film talky, "The Jazz Singer" starring Al Jolson."
After skipping 2 grades in elementary school, Mr. Harris enrolled at the practically brand new Brooklyn College, from which he graduated in 1939. He then went on to the exclusive Cooper Union in Manhattan's Greenwich Village, where, after his 2 years of studying engineering were interrupted by WW2, he joined the U.S. Navy. He worked in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and then traveled extensively in the war, specializing in ship building and radio engineering and operation.
The post War years brought him to settling back in New York, and choosing the insurance business over manufacturing and sales in the new medium of television. Working in the Wall Street section of Manhattan, he became a pioneer of several insurance products, such as "No fault insurance", and others in a fast developing field. Between his childhood in Brooklyn and the typical summers in the Catskills, the Harris's were friends, school-mates, neighbors and even relatives to many who would become celebrities, such as Buddy Hackett, Allen King, Mel Brooks, Jan Pierce, Arnold Stang, Marlon Brando, Dizzy Gilespie and Morey Amsterdam. "Although there were tough times, especially for my mother" continues his son, "the post-war years were good to my parents. They took full advantage of the ability to experience the great big bands, great Broadway shows, great operas, and so many events, from sports to politics, in New York at a time that we only dream of nowadays."
Marrying Marcy Amsterdam, also from Williamsburg, in 1952, the family moved to Forest Hills, and later, in 1960, to Great Neck, N.Y., the first suburb next to New York City on Long Island's north shore. The Harrises and their 4 children were a fine example of the Kennedy-Camelot era-turned-Beatles/Ed Sullivan-turned Viet Nam protest-turned Woodstock baby boom generation, so catalogued by now on TV, books and films of those pre-computer, pre-disco, and pre-oil embargo times.
When Mr. Harris retired and sold his business around 1982, a new opportunity arose, to be an senior executive consultant at Gwyder Co., an insurance company whose major client was Conde Nast publications, publishers of Vogue Magazine, among others. After several years there, and with the kids moving out on their own, the time came to trade the New York climate for Florida, like much of the old Brooklyn crowd did. Until his mid 80s he could be seen on the Tennis court or at his other hobbies such as the typical Florida fare of swimming, card playing, fishing and a strong involvement in Jewish activities.
Mr. Harris is survived by his wife Marcy, and his children, Lisa, of Summertown, Tennessee, Ruby, of Chicago, Raphael, of Miami and Vicky, of Great Neck, New York, and many grandchildren. Funeral services were held in Del Ray Beach, Florida. Contributions to Torah Scholars in needy circumstances can be made to The Ark, 6450 N. California Ave., Chicago, IL 60645, Attention: The Spiritual Enrichment program in memory of Harold Harris O.B.M.
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