Charles Henry Harrison
Navarro County, Texas


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Legacy of Love: Parade Grand Marshal honored for contribution

Posted: Friday, December 5, 2014 3:07 pm

After a full day of Christmas festivities in Corsicana, the piece de résistance will be the appearance of Charles Henry Harrison, 90 years young, as Grand Marshal of the Christmas Parade.

Generations of Corsicana and Navarro County residents have visited Santa Claus on his traditional stop at Charles Henry and Evelyn Harrison’s house. That tradition went on over 50 years.

And even though Evelyn passed on in November 2011, and Charles Henry no longer hosts the big gathering, he will be honored for his long-range contribution to Christmas in Navarro County.

The legacy of the huge Harrison Christmas party began as a love of Christmas in the lad Charles Henry’s mind. He grew up on Seventh Avenue, where the former Other Place Restaurant was, and was from an affluent family, in those times. He had only one sister, and his family decorated up big for the holiday, and lavished both kids with gifts.

Charles Henry met Evelyn when he was stationed in Sioux Falls, South Dakota while in the U.S. Army. They married Jan. 12, 1946. To that union were born Charles Michael Harrison, Gayle Jenkins and Angela Wrinkle. One thing about Evelyn that endeared her to Charles Henry was the fact she was the third child in a family of eight children, who had very little. No electricity, and she had only one pair of undergarments that were washed nightly and hung to dry. Her youngest brother was 12 years old before he saw a lit Christmas tree.

“I was always keen on Christmas,” Charles Henry said. “I just loved Evelyn so much, and she’d always had nothing. I wanted to give her everything she ever wanted, and her siblings. I enjoyed so much doing things for those kids, because they never had a thing.”

That love, that eagerness to make children’s eyes light up at Christmas watered the seed planted in Charles Henry’s heart as a boy, and in 1959, while living in Kerens, the Harrisons invited 12 families to a Christmas party at their house. The next year it swelled to 25 families, and by 1961, they decided “all are welcome.”

Flash forward to 1987 and the Harrisons moved to the outskirts of Corsicana. With slightly more space, they added more features, like a tricycle merry-go-round, swing sets, slide, a jungle gym, bounce house, a blow-up slide, even a barrel train, pulled by a neighbor volunteer with a 4-wheeler. In addition to the cookies Evelyn baked and froze all year long in preparation, there was coffee, cider, popcorn, nachos, and the crowds were known to exceed 1,000 attendees. Neighbors and friends showed up to help serve, herd traffic, run the rides, and pop popcorn. And all the children sat on Santa’s lap and told him what they wanted for Christmas.

The Harrisons only reason for planning, arranging, working and footing the bill year after year, for over 50 years?

To bless a community, much the way they feel they were blessed for so many years.

Posted: Friday, December 5, 2014 3:07 pm

Deanna Kirk is a Daily Sun staff writer. She may be reached via email at dkirk@corsicanadailysun.com.

The Corsicana Daily Sun - Saturday, December 6, 2014
Submitted by Karen Rost

Caption for photo
Daily Sun file photo Charles Henry Harrison, World War II veteran, will be Grand Marshal of the Christmas Parade. Harrison and his late wife Evelyn made an indelible mark on Corsicana with their

Parade, ceremony highlight weekend holiday events

Posted: Monday, December 8, 2014 6:52 pm

From a spectacular fireworks display that lit up the Friday night sky to the costumed walkers and joggers Saturday morning to the Festival of Lights Parade Saturday night, it was indeed a holiday weekend to celebrate.

The town is pulling out all the punches this year, with a focus on bringing folks together to celebrate the season.

Friday night's lighting ceremony featured free food, special music, and some memorable photo opportunities with fireworks and a 50-foot Christmas tree providing the perfect photo.

Saturday morning's Jingle Bell Jog through Community Park found hundreds of participants lined up to enjoy a pleasant "almost winter morning" walk/jog/run through the park — some with kids in tow, some with pets joining the fun — all displaying a colorful holiday spirit.

Saturday night's Festival of Lights Christmas Parade was one of the biggest yet, said organizer Dennis Thornberg. The parade featured floats, bands, classic cars and of course, Santa himself. One of Santa's legendary "helpers" through the years — Charles Henry Harrison — served as parade grand marshal.

More special holiday events are slated for Friday and Saturday this week, as an ice-skating rink is set up next downtown next to the Christmas tree at Collin and Beaton Streets. Free ice-skating — and roller skating on Beaton Street — is scheduled for 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, and again 3 to 7 p.m. Saturday. There will also be "guaranteed snowfall" that day, according to Corsicana's Mayor Chuck McClanahan.

You may reach the Daily Sun newsroom by email at news@corsicanadailysun.com

The Corsicana Daily Sun - Tuesday, December 9, 2015
Submitted by Karen Rost

 

caption for photo

Daily Sun photo/Ron Farmer Grand Marshal Charles Henry Harrison waives to the crowd Saturday during the Festival of Lights Christmas Parade. Harrison hosted Christmas gatherings for children of Navarro County for decades.


KIRK: 'Corsicana Claus'

Posted: Friday, January 16, 2015 6:21 pm

I first met Charles Henry Harrison and his dear wife Evelyn at their home in roughly 2005 or 2006. I remember this because he graciously agreed to haul out his sleigh in October for us to take photos to use for the December Explore that year.

Strangely enough, even though I grew up in Corsicana, I had never gone to their home for the big Christmas party. I remember sitting in their living room, and listening to Charles Henry talk about Christmas and the party, and thinking, “My word, this guy is as excited about this as a little kid waiting for Santa.”

 

Evelyn’s health was already failing by the time I met them, and when Charles Henry left the room once, she said that she had been ready to give up the huge undertaking for a while, but seeing Charles Henry get so excited about it every year she didn’t even mention her thought to him.

For over 50 years, the Harrisons hosted a huge Christmas party for the community at their home. Kids would line up, long lines, to sit in Santa’s lap as he sat next to Mrs. Claus in the sleigh in front of their house. There were snacks and hot beverages, things for the kids to ride, a bounce house, big slide ... you get the picture.

Charles Henry would watch the weather forecast like a hawk once December came, and when he chose the night, not only did he get on the phone and call all the folks on his list, he called KAND and the newspaper, and let them spread the word too.

Truly, everyone in the community was invited.

During that first interview, we stuck to that subject, but I was fortunate enough to interview him at least once or twice more. I learned he had served in World War II. That he had a long association with Oaklawn Cemetery and Central Monument Works. That he was a longtime volunteer at the hospital, and belonged to the Coyote Squadron. There were many facets to this giving, generous man.

Some of his sparkle left him when Evelyn passed on. I think it was about a month later, he played Santa at the Daily Sun at Christmas. Two of my grandchildren sat on his lap (well one, actually, the eldest was scared and would not touch him), and he was gentle and loving as always with all the children (and a few canines).

His children threw a 90th birthday party for him in January 2014, which was attended by quite a few people. Folks from his church, Westhill Church of Christ, friends and family from any and all walks of life came to say “Happy Birthday” to that special man. If you think about it, sometimes when a person lives to be 90-plus they outlive most of their friends, family and acquaintances. But the local hotel where they held the party had spillover from the birthday room out into the lobby, the entire two hours of the come-and-go reception.

Charles Henry Harrison gave a lot, but I believe he gained even more in friendship.

Rest in peace, my friend.

Deanna Kirk is a Daily Sun staff writer. Her column appears on Saturdays. She may be reached via email at dkirk@corsicanadailysun.com.

The Corsicana Daily Sun - Saturday, January 17, 2015
Submitted by Karen Rost


Christmas icon Charles Henry Harrison passes away

Posted: Thursday, January 15, 2015 7:08 pm

A man whose name was synonymous with Christmas in Corsicana more than any other has passed away at the age of 91.

Charles Henry Harrison, to many “Santa Claus,” passed away Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015. He will join his beloved Evelyn, who died in November 2011, in heaven. He is survived by his children, Charles Michael Harrison, Gayle Harrison Jenkins and Angela Harrison Wrinkle.

Generations of Corsicana, Kerens and Navarro County residents have visited Santa Claus on his traditional stop at Charles Henry and Evelyn Harrison’s house, a tradition that endured over 50 years.

Terri Orn, daughter of the late Fannie Mae Vernon, recently moved from Navarro County to The Woodlands, but grew up in Kerens and was a childhood friend to Gayle Harrison. She was around Charles Henry as her friend’s father, but also as he played Santa at various functions in the area.

“When mother was working for TP&L, Charles Henry was at the Christmas party every year, he did the garden club parties as Santa,” Orn said. “I am 67 and he was my daddy’s age. He was a young Santa. When Embry Ferguson gave out Christmas gifts at the TP&L party, Charles Henry did it. My James built his sleigh in the welding shop at the high school. Then when our daughter (Lesle Orn Cole) came along, he came to her birthday parties, Christmas, he was all over the place.”

Charles Henry grew up in Corsicana on Seventh Avenue, where the former Other Place Restaurant once stood. For those times, he came from an affluent family, and had only one sister, so Christmas was done up big, and they were lavished with gifts. When he met Evelyn after World War II, she came from a very poor family with eight children. Her youngest brother was 12 years old before he ever saw a Christmas tree. So Charles Henry delighted in showing that family what Christmas could be.

“He was a sweet man,” Orn said. “Without Charles Henry, who is going to be Santa?

“Evelyn started making cookies in June every year ... I don’t know how in the world they ever did all that. Evelyn was the sweetest, kindest person in the whole world.”

“All that” refers to the neighborhood Christmas party that became tradition while the Harrisons still lived in Kerens. What began in 1959 at their home with 12 families, swelled to 25 families the next year, and by 1961, the Harrisons decided “All are welcome.”

The couple decided to move to the outskirts of Corsicana in 1987, where Charles Henry had plenty of room to spread out and add more feature to his Christmas extravaganza. There was a tricycle merry-go-round, swing sets, slide, jungle gym, a bounce house or two, blow-up slide, even a barrel train, pulled by a neighbor volunteer with a 4-wheeler. In addition to the cookies Evelyn baked and froze all year long in preparation, there was coffee, cider, popcorn, nachos, and the crowds were known to exceed 1,000 attendees.

“Mr. Harrison not only brought the joy of Christmas to children of all ages, to me, Mr. and Mrs. Harrison were Christmas. An incredible act of love,” said Mandy Tanner. “Of giving lovingly and unselfishly. A wonderful Godly man who set an awesome example for so many families for so many years.”

Tanner has wonderful memories of taking her own children, Allison and Dustin, to see Santa and Mrs. Claus. It delighted them at the time, but also gave her magical, wonder Christmas memories that aren’t quite the same once the kids get older.

“My mama looked forward to it as well,” she said of her late mother. “She’d start asking me after Thanksgiving when would Santa be visiting so she could make sure she was able to go with us. She really loved to sit on the swing, which was always trimmed in lights, enjoying the cookies, coffee or cocoa while watching the kids on the merry-go-round or train.”

Joe Hambrick knew Harrison in a different context. Hambrick lived in Frost as a youngster, Harrison in Corsicana. Both were drafted, and left Navarro County the same day for Mineral Wells and the United States Army induction center.

“Because our names were Hambrick and Harrison, we stayed together all the way,” Hambrick said. “We went through basic training together, went overseas together. We were even wounded on the same day. We were in a little town about the size of Barry in France, and our unit was assigned to clear the town Nov. 17, 1944.”

Hambrick said Harrison came back to the states and married Evelyn, who was from South Dakota. The Harrisons resided there for a time, but eventually returned to Navarro County, where they stayed. The two buddies established their friendship again.

“I have been to his house for the Christmas party,” he said. “He gave a lot, not only at Christmas. He was active in several veterans organizations. He was a volunteer at the hospital for many years. He was active in his church, and very civic-minded, wanted to help the community.

“Charles Henry gave a lot.”

Corley Funeral Home is in charges of funeral arrangements for Harrison. Visitation with the family will be held from 1 to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015 at Corley Funeral Home. Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015 at the Corley Funeral Home Chapel with Mr. Paul Slaughter officiating. Interment will follow in the Kerens City Cemetery.

Deanna Kirk is a Daily Sun staff writer. She may be reached by email at dkirk@corsicanadailysun.com.

The Corsicana Daily Sun - Saturday, January 17, 2015
Submitted by Karen Rost


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Daily Sun FILE photo/Ron Farmer - Charles Henry Harrison is shown celebrating his 90th birthday in this photo from January 2014. The man who made Santa come alive each fall for over 50 years passed away Thursday at the age of 91.

 

caption for photo 2 
Courtesy photo - Santa Harrison with Allison and Dustin Tanner, children of Sheriff Elmer and Mandy Tanner.


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