There is perhaps no greater honor that can be bestowed on parents than the respect of their children. This honor is earned by the example they set and the lives they lead. For the three Harris sons, Dr. Wendell and Helen Harris epitomized everything that is honorable, praiseworthy and extraordinary about being a parent.
If you ask the sons about their parents, the word “integrity” comes quickly into the conversation. Integrity radiated outward from Wendell and Helen into the community they served. They will tell you their parents taught by example, valuing each person and treating all with respect. They led purpose-filled lives that were integrated into the community through both their personal and professional activities.
Both parents taught their sons that they have a responsibility to serve others. Dr. Wendell Harris was a man of the people. As a general practitioner, he set up his practice in Flint, where the black community that needed him would have access. For 44 years, he served each patient with dignity. He knew his people and their hardships, and therefore often accepted payment in the form of fresh vegetables or a used bike because that was all that some patients could afford.
Helen Harris set an ambitious example of widespread community activism and dauntless energy with organizations such as the League of Women Voters and the NAACP. She forged strong relationships throughout the community on multiple levels. Many people commented that she reminded them of their own mother, reinforcing her beautiful ability to connect with people of many backgrounds and experiences. She was a constant advocate, a committed mother, and a lifelong partner to her husband.
For the Harris sons, a parental tribute in the Library makes perfect sense. Their parents valued education and information access. They believed the Library was an equalizer that gave opportunity to all. Both Wendell and Helen Harris espoused lifelong learning, bringing their children to the Library from an early age and demonstrating through their behavior the value of open-mindedness and exploration.
Many people do not perceive the strength of character displayed by their parents until it is far too late. Others do not have parents whose lives are models for others. The Harris children acknowledge the blessing of their incredible parents and are proud to commemorate that legacy through the Dr. Wendell B. and Helen B. Harris Room.