Doris Louise Johnson Harrison will be remembered for her faith in God, her loving devotion to family, and her zest for life.
When she was in grade school, Doris fell prey to diphtheria, scarlet fever, and rheumatic fever that disrupted her young, active years. She missed months of school, but refused to fall behind academically. However, since the only treatment was rest, she had to forgo strenuous activities and spent every summer through high school at her paternal Grandmother’s (Della Lena Whitehorn Johnson) and Grandfather’s (Iretus Crum Johnson) cabin in Ruidoso. It was during these warm days with Mama and Papa that she became a dedicated reader of Scripture and experienced the sheer joy of being in the mountains.
In 1941 Doris attended the University of New Mexico, even joining a sorority, before she offered to disenroll so her two siblings, Joyce and Dale (both deceased), could attend college. As the U.S. entered WWII, Doris was among the first to enlist in the Navy’s Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service (WAVES). She was promoted to yeoman second class while stationed in Washington DC. Her supervisor was so impressed with her work in investigations, he arranged for her to take a personal tour of the White House while Franklin D. Roosevelt was president. During her enlistment, she began dating the exciting Army Air Corps fighter pilot Tom Harrison, also from her hometown of Clovis, New Mexico. They married in 1946 at her parent’s, (Byrle Whitehorn Johnson and Elsie Skoog Johnson), farm in West Plains, Missouri. Soon after, Tom was transferred to West Point, his alma mater, to teach math. In 1947 their daughter Barbara was born.
In 1950 North Korea invaded South Korea and Tom was deployed to fly combat missions. In 1951 his plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire, forcing him to bail out over enemy territory. He was declared missing in action. Doris, heartbroken, had to be strong for her mother as her father weakened and died of heart failure. For nine long months she endured the uncertainty of not knowing if her husband was alive. She was relieved when she heard Tom had survived, but distressed that he was a prisoner of war held by the North Koreans and later by the Chinese. When he was repatriated in 1953 during Operation Big Switch, she accompanied him to San Antonio where he received treatment at Brooks Army Hospital for infections caused by the crude amputation of his leg. Doris helped him through the painful healing process, and in 1954 they came to Albuquerque to start a new life. They had three more children: Danny, Joyce and Dale.
Tragedy struck again when Tom developed cancer and died in 1985. Eight years later Doris lost her two sons only months apart, Danny age 39 and Dale age 28. In the early 1960’s Doris had found an extended family at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church who assisted her during these difficult times. At St. Andrew she served multiple terms as deacon and elder, and as a board member of the Martinez Town, House of Neighborly Service. She was also a lifelong member of P.E.O., an organization promoting women’s education.
As a widow she had the time to pursue her love of travel. Her daughter Joyce, a Marine Corps officer, and Joyce’s husband Frank McCallister (deceased), a Marine Corps helicopter pilot, invited her to visit them abroad where they were stationed. She saw them frequently as she cherished spending time with her grandsons, Brendan and Conlan. In Albuquerque she had the company of her daughter: Barbara and husband, Ted Scharf (deceased) and their four children: Jessica (deceased), Matt, Tom, and Ellen; along with great-grandchildren: Amanda and Sabrina Bracher and Jackson Scharf.
She kept herself engaged with her church, her home and her gardening until developing dementia at age 91. Even then she never lost her sense of humor nor her willingness to help others. For the last six years, Doris was the recipient of attentive care at Retreat Alzheimer’s Specialty Care where she forged meaningful relationships and began another remarkable phase of her long life. Her daughters extend their heartfelt gratitude to the empathetic and nurturing caregivers at Retreat, as well as to friends Deanne Gilpin, Linda Gallegos, and Virginia DeLeon who often accompanied Doris and her daughter, Barbara on outings around the beautiful Bosque. Doris’ vibrant personality and dedication to family and friends will be missed.
Doris' Life Celebration will be held at a later date.
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