Most of us admire the person who follows the typical American way: someone who is independent, competitive, decisive, and proud of her family. Maxine Harris was such a person.
Some of us frequently comment about some of Maxine’s often used expressions. One of these, “Jackie [her daughter], where are my glasses?” So far Jerry [her son] has found ten pair of glasses in her apartment. We are still counting. Maxine refused to wear glasses full time, and she also refused to wear one of those unattractive chains holding the glasses close by. Such a chain was not stylish. And all of us know that Maxine had style. She was a classy lady. When style and practicality clashed, style always won.
She especially enjoyed shopping at Talbot’s. The sales people always looked forward to waiting on her. Talbot’s catered to classy ladies. Maxine was a classy, not a dowdy, dresser. She enjoyed attractive clothes, and she enjoyed wearing these clothes every day. Someone commented that she would wear her mink coat anywhere and anytime. It was only in the past year or two that Jackie, Pat [her daughter] and Rose [Jerry’s wife] convinced her to avoid high heel shoes. Maxine and Vinton square danced for a number of years, and Jackie wore one of her classy long dresses at the Minnesota State square dance fashion show.
Her style also was obvious in her entertaining. Never did she serve without table cloths on the tables, and the good china frequently was used. The food also was prepared and with detail. A few years ago when the family decided that she should not cook for the large holiday dinners, she was not convinced that a come-and-go Christmas dinner of soup and sandwiches was appropriate.
Another phrase Maxine frequently said: “I can do it.” She was very competitive and independent, and often refused others who wanted to help her when she thought she was fully capable. This competitiveness probably started at birth when she won the “cutest” baby contest in Mantorville. As a high school basketball player her team lost only one game in the two years she played. She was a guard, probably telling everyone what play was run. She bowled on a team for the Hubbell House. She enjoyed every table game and always liked winning. And she often won.
And her most competitive venture was on the golf course. After her retirement, she decided that golf was her game. Before swinging for the first time, she took lessons from a professional and purchased expensive golf clubs. She played in tournaments in various area towns. On her ninetieth birthday, Jackie, Pat, and Rose suggested that she play golf so that they could arrange the dining area without her suggestions. So we had the Maxine Open. Of course her two-person team won. She was particularly proud of her putting, and she always counted her putts. If the ball was one inch off the green and she used her putter, she reminded the score keeper that the stroke was not a putt because the ball was not on the green. One of the last times I played with her well into her nineties, I asked her, “Maxine, what did you score on that hole.” She said, “I had a five if you don’t count the ball in the water.” I said to myself, “When you are over ninety, if you say you scored a five, five went on the scorecard.”
She was an avid fan of the Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Timberwolves. She watched every game. Her friend, Carole Baker, and she visited over the telephone about the Twins often. They made certain that each other knew when the game was on television and what channel. Then they talked about the game, probably like expert baseball analysts. One wonders what went through her mind when Pat mentioned the night before her death that the Timberwolves beat the Los Angeles Lakes. She never gave up on these two professional teams. She probably thought that, if the Twins were behind by nine runs in the ninth inning, there was still a possibility of their winning.
We often wondered how many times we heard Maxine say something like this: “Don’t you want something more to each. There are cookies and ice cream in the refrigerator.” She often told about preparing the chickens for the threshers starting early in the morning. Those meals for the threshers must have been special. On the farm, she always prepared a substantial breakfast for her husband, Vinton. She lay in bed until she heard the truck rattling down the road returning from the cheese factory. Bacon, eggs, toast, juice, and a Harris tradition, a cookie. Everyone in the family knew about her chocolate brownies. To Maxine, any special time required an angel food cake, usually with seven-minute frosting often drizzled with chocolate. At Christmas, artificial holly rested on the top of the cake. Maxine always satisfied the Harris sweet tooth.
During the past days of her life, Maxine was visited by grandchildren, great grandchildren, great-great grandchildren, the staff at Prairie Meadows, and many friends. Even in her declining health, she enjoyed this company, especially from the little ones.
Her interest in family probably began when Vinton wrote a note to her that the “Easter Bunny would deliver something special in a basket.” Of course it was an engagement ring. She never forgot a birthday and most anniversaries of her three children, their spouses, the grandchildren and great grandchildren and their spouses, and the great-great grandchildren, close to forty individuals, received cares and a gift of money. Christmas was incomplete without a visit from all of the family. She was generous with her Christmas presents. And of course, Jackie and Pat frequently mentioned that Jerry was her mother’s favorite child! Most of us are still wondering.
A cornerstone to one’s interest in family is faith. Maxine was a member of First Congregational Church for eight-seven years. That is unbelievable. She was a faithful organist here for over fifty years and practiced for every event—weddings, funerals, community events. She looked forward to playing organ-piano duets with her friend, Shirley Loquai. At Prairie Meadows, she participated in the weekly Bible Study, always reminding the study leader, Pastor Clint Patterson, a Presbyterian, that she was a Congregationalist. Pastor Clint always said that Maxine asked the tough questions.
Can anyone think of anyone with a better green thumb than the one on Maxine’s hand? She could bring a dead plant back to life. On the farm and in the yard in Mantorville, her roses were spectacular. She knew that one rose was a Barbara Bush rose and another a John Kennedy rose. She was proud of the hollyhocks covering the outhouse and the sweet peas growing on the trellis.
Maxine Ruth Stussy Harris—wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother, and great great grandmother, good friends and, recently notes as the Ambassador of Public Relations at Prairie Meadows—you will be missed. We are here today to celebrate her life.