A magnificent voice has been silenced and an enormously creative talent lost to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease) with the passing of Ed Harris, lovingly held by his wife and son at Horizon Hospice Home in Billings. Living only 63 years, Ed made many contributions to the musical arts, school and church communities of Montana. A nationally known composer, music educator and extraordinary man, he left his earthly existence with consummate dignity and grace September 17, 2006.
He will be remembered as a humble, kind, patient man of legendary wit, professionalism and intellect with keen abilities to organize, think and plan ahead. His eclectic interests included collections of playing cards, Carl Barks comic books, gargoyles, miniature pianos, Disney villains and the eggs he painted.
Edward James Harris was born April 24, 1943, to Hubert and Alyce, the oldest child in his family; he grew up in Forsyth, earning music/music education degrees from the University of Montana and a graduate degree from the University of Washington. Ed, a loving and devoted husband for 39 years, married his soul mate Sharon Egge, June 16, 1967 in Forsyth, and began a 26-year teaching career in Billings. In 1973 they were blessed by the birth of their son, Jordan, who inspired the choral composition, Why? Ed was one of the first Montana music teachers to become professionally certified and registered by the Music Educators National Conference; he received the Montana Music Educators Association President’s Award in 2005, honoring his lifetime of service to Montana music. As MMEA’s Cadenza magazine editor, he brought the publication to a new level of excellence.
Friends and family will remember Ed frequently on the musical stage as a performer, accompanist and musical director; he was honored by Billings Studio Theatre, most recently when the Ed Harris Excellence in Musical Direction Award was created. His composition, Billings, My City, My Home, became the official city song in 1988 and over 100 of his compositions have been published.
During his prolific career Ed was called to music ministry and, his messages through word and song, faithfully guided Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd and American Lutheran Church. Instrumental in the formation of Rimrock Opera and its board, he made his RO debut in 1 999 and performed his signature role as Baron Zeta in the 2001 production of The Merry Widow. Audiences enjoyed him in six additional operas.
Left to rejoice in his life, yet mourn, are his beloved wife Sharon and son Jordan (Alicia), grandchildren Isaiah and Kasey of Billings, brothers Sheldon (Kelly) Harris of Prince George, BC, and Lee Kerr (Christine) of Tyler, TX, sisters Judy Carroll of Phoenix, AZ, and Lori Hughes (Jim) of Everett, WA, also seven nieces and nephews, cousins and a host of colleagues and loving friends. Additionally he leaves a remarkable legacy of mentoring, musical compositions, theatrical productions, operatic performances and inspired students.
Special gratitude goes to his friends who organized and participated in the Tribute to Ed Harris concert at the Alberta Bair Theatre January 2006, members of Ed’s Share the Care group and the compassionate staff of Big Sky Hospice who all honored his many recent needs.
A worship service celebrating Ed’s life will be held at American Lutheran Church, 5 Lewis Avenue, 11:00 a.m. Friday, September 22, followed with lunch and time to share memories.
Ed requested any memorials may be made in his name to: Horizon Hospice Home (P. O. Box 35033, Billings 59107), Billings Studio Theatre (1500 Rimrock Road, Billings 59102), Rimrock Opera (P. O. Box 11, Billings 59103), or Muscular Dystrophy Association – ALS Division (2070 Overland Avenue, Suite 101, Billings 59102). Cremation has taken place with arrangements by Michelotti-Sawyers Mortuary.
I would like to be remembered as husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend – an ordinary person who used kindness, patience, persistence, imagination and wit while attempting to achieve extraordinary things.”