On a warm Texas fall evening, Charles Ray Harrison left the family, community and land he loved and went to be with his Lord. He left this earth the way he lived on it — working.
Charlie was born to Minnie Aline (Smith) and Roy Elton Harrison in his Grandmother Smith’s house near the Bedias Baptist Church just weeks after the beginning of the Great Depression. Family, faith and business shaped his life.
He learned to farm and ranch (which means learning how to work hard) and attended school in Bedias, then moved to Anderson at age 10 when his father was elected District Clerk of Grimes County. The family moved to Houston to work as part of the war effort, and Charlie graduated from Galena Park High School in 1947, where he was co-captain of the football team. While there, he attended Market Street Baptist Church, where he was saved and baptized.
Charlie graduated from Sam Houston State Teachers College in Huntsville, before going to work for Swift Agricultural Chemicals Corporation in 1951. His intelligence, drive, and work ethic were quickly noted, and he rose steadily in the company, taking on new responsibilities in Madison, Wis., and Chicago. After bringing the family back to Houston, he moved to American Plant Food Corporation as executive vice president in 1972. His reputation for uncompromising standards in business, and Christian compassion for people, earned the respect of workers and executives alike. He served with APF for 15 years, followed by another 44 years on the board of directors.
In 1987, he and his wife Peggy retired from the grind of office work and returned to the challenge of making a living off the land. Moving in next to the family “home place” of more than 100 years, he quickly settled into the community as one of its volunteers and champions. “Charles Ray” as his mother called him, and “Charlie” as he was known far and wide, joined the Bedias Volunteer Fire Department in 1987, where he was a hard working fixture at the fundraising fish fry year after year. He served on the County Crime Stoppers Board for 24 years, was a member of the 100 Club, and was such a strong supporter of the County Sheriff’s Department that he was made an honorary member, and had his own badge. Three times president of the Bedias Civic Association, he worked on the restoration of the Grimes County Courthouse as a member of “Operation Courthouse.” Seeking to put his many years of business experience to work for his friends and neighbors, he put in many hours with the Investment Committee for Grimes County, maximizing the resources available for community projects.
However, this short list cannot begin to capture the many hours (and donations) that he and Peggy contributed to the individuals and organizations that turn a collection of people into a thriving self-sufficient community. When there was work to be done, whether keeping an eye out for our law enforcement officers on a dark and lonely stretch of road, or pulling a neighbor’s cow from a tank in the cold rain, Charlie Harrison was one of the first to respond — and he didn’t leave until the task was done.
Those closest to him know that Charlie worked just as hard at guiding his family and teaching them the skills and perseverance he knew they would need in life. Those who did not live through the Depression can never fully understand how the childhood experience of watching hard working families struggle through a time when there was no work or money or food impacted the survivors. Charlie was a loving husband, father, uncle and friend — but an uncompromising task master when there was work to be done. He had no patience with those who slacked on a task, or would not pull their own weight. He taught his children that high standards are a form of compassion, because it results in reliable citizens and self-sufficient family members. His family learned this lesson well.
Charlie loved his family and his friends and his life showed it. But his one other love was the land he worked. He kept a watchful eye on every sick cow, and grieved for every tree lost to drought. He nursed lost fawns, drove off coyotes, and locked the gate every time he passed through. When he got the call to leave us, he was out checking the garden God had given him to tend.
Charlie was preceded in death by: his parents; his sister Uldene H. McIntyre and his brother-in-law, Dick McIntyre; his brother Harold G. Harrison and sister-in-law Elinor Harrison; his first wife Margaret Harrison; and his daughter Brenda Harrison Evans.
He is survived by:
•his wife, Peggy Harrison (of Bedias);
•his daughter, Mary Giles and her husband, Roy Giles (of Houston) and their two children Justin Giles, wife Emily, their son Barrett Charles, son Jordan Giles, wife Afua, and son Caden, grandson Bill Evans, wife Suzanne, daughters Kailey and Karsyn (of Ennis); grandson Brett Evans, daughter Klara (of Bedias), grandson Brady Evans, son Brendyn (of Madisonville);
•his son, Cole Harrison (of Bedias)
•Peggy’s son Robert Autrey, wife Dena, son Caleb (of Richards);
•Ronald Autrey, wife Julie, son Joshua (of Lafayette, La.);
•Bryan Autrey, wife Rosa, daughter Jilena (of Houston).
A viewing will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Oct. 2 at Southern Heritage Funeral Home, West FM 1696, in Bedias. A luncheon will be served by the Bedias Volunteer Fire Department at the fellowship hall at noon on Tuesday, Oct. 3. Services will be conducted at the Bedias Baptist Church at 2 p.m., followed by graveside ceremonies at the Bedias Baptist Cemetery
In lieu of flowers the family has requested donations be made to the Jerald and Cindia Brown Scholarship Fund of the Bedias Baptist Church, or the Bedias Volunteer Fire Department.