ForeverMissed
Stories

Share a special moment from Rod's life.

Poem For The Living

Shared by Nina Harris on May 15, 2021
When I am dead,
Cry for me a little.

Think of me sometimes,
But not too much.

It is not good for you
Or your wife or your husband
Or your children
To allow your thoughts to dwell
Too long on the dead.

Think of me now and again
As I was in life
At some moment which it is pleasant to recall.

Leave me in peace
As I shall leave you, too, in peace.

While you live,
Let your thoughts be with the living.

This was written by Theodora Kroeber. It's a clipping my mother had saved for many years. I found it when shortly before she died and saved it to be read at her funeral. It seems appropriate on this site, where we are all sharing many pleasant moments we recall from Rod's life.

The Rod Harris that I knew

Shared by Jack Gibson on May 14, 2021
I am Rod’s sister’s husband, Jack.  I first met Rod February of 1976 in Spring Lake, Michigan, where Rod and Annette’sparents lived at that time. It was a weekend and we shared a room and I quickly learned of his love for motor and water sports. 

His love of motor sports was such that he warned me, in a very nice way, if I knew, do not tell him who had won the Indy 500. He would watch it later in the day and please not ruin the day for him by telling him who won the race. I made sure I followed this advice.

Annette and I were fortunate to take customers to the 2005 running of the Indy 500 and Rod told me in no uncertain terms to make sure I brought ear plugs for all to use because the seats were on the start/ finish line and once the 33 cars started their engines you would think you were at an airport listening to jet engines. I passed the ear plugs out to all involved and just as Rod said the noice was deafening and if you did not have them in your ears once they started their engines you did so in about 2 seconds. 

Rod also told me that the seats as good as they were on the start/finish line about 5 rows up were too good. By that he meant we would not see much of the race. In fact after the cars wizzed by you you saw them go into the first turn and then not again for about 45 seconds when they flew by you again. 

One time Rod had one of his race cars in the trailer parked in the driveway of hi parents house in Grand Haven and he told me to come outside so I could hear him start the engine. It was a Sunday morning about 8-9 am and once I heard the roar of the car starting I was glad that many people in the neighborhood were already up and at church. He said the car had a muffler but it did not sound like it to my amateur ears.

On the anniversary of Annette’s 10 year graduation from high school in 1980 he said I could drive his Corvette ( which one this one was I do not remember) and he said that if I passed any Corvettes the guy/ girl I was passing would have one of his hands on the steering wheel and he would wave/ open his fingers on the steering wheel. I thought he was kidding me as I had never heard of such a thing but I will be darned if not every Corvette we passed on both the way to and back home from the reunion did not flash his hand/fingers at me as we passed. I was getting tired of having to do this  exercise as we must have passed about 10 corvettes each way on on the 45-60 minute drive.

So the summer of 1981 and 1982 our family and Rod and Nina’s spent at week at Silver Lake in Michigan. The very first day there as we are unpacking Rod says we are getting up at 6 am tomorrow morning. I thought the first day of vacation and I want to sleep in. Rod would not tell me why he wanted to do this so up I got on Monday morning and it turned out it was to water ski. I had water skied before but never on water that was like skiing on glass. You could clearly see yourself when you were skiing when you looked down at the water. There was not a ripple of a wave on Silver Lake at 6 am. The water was truly like glass and the swissing sound the skis made on the water was unforgettable.  So it was well worth getting up early that day and a few other days where the weather permitted it.

One time Annette was skiing and Rod conveniently deposited her in the water were there was lot of seaweed. There was a twinkle in his eyes when he told me to watch her reaction once she realized where he dropped her into the water. Annette was not amused but it was all in good fun.

Rod was quite a water skier. I never saw him not get up on a slalom ski. Once the boat would start pulling Rod he would disappear under the water and then very quickly he would pop up and onto the one ski. Every time and I saw him do this many times. I never  was able to get up on a slalom ski. On a longer one ski, yes, but not a short slalom ski like he did. Of course he would turn backwards when skiing and go from side to side in a severe turn behind the boat that was pulling him and I hardly ever saw him fall.

Then there were the times Rod and I went running. It was Christmas week in Sterling Heights and we went out for a 6 mile run and it was about -5 degrees with a minus 30-40 wind chill factor. I thought he was kidding but he said let’s do it. When we both finished the run we were both sweating as we were bundled up big time to protect ourselves from the cold. We also ran together for the Jeffers Scenic Run which Rod’s Mom organised for the school where she taught near Spring Lake. 

I had not made the scene yet when Rod was an active race car driver. I have seen pictures of him in various race cars that he drove over the years. I asked him once why  he stopped driving and he said that once Keely was born his racing days were over as racing was taking up all their money and he had a family now. He did race again once Keely and Tyler were out of the house and Annette and I went to the Joliet, Illinois raceway to see him drive in a race. It was very hot that day and he had to wear a suit that was water lined to cool him off from the extreme heat.

One more thing was I know Rod really enjoyed the house in East China on the St. Clair River and seeing the large freighters passing by their back yard on a daily basis. He had books on the various ships and we could quickly go to the book and see when and where the ship was built and how long it was. I found myself doing the same thing every time we visited Rod and Nina at this house.

The thing I remember most about Rod was that he was always upbeat. He always said he was doing great even if you knew he was not. He was always smiling and fun to be around. That is what I will miss most about him.

A Love Affair with Speed

Shared by Keely Denenberg on May 13, 2021
I grew up knowing that when my dad hit the brakes fast and hard for a few seconds then kept driving, looking anxiously in the rear view mirror, often accompanied with "Shit!", he might have gotten caught on radar going just a wee bit too fast. I'd like to pretend that doesn't happen to me, but as recently as a few days after he died, I was that driver looking back in the mirror, wondering if I'd see a siren....After all, it was my dad who taught me how to drive, so is it really my fault?!

When he had the Viper and we would go to the track, I loved the thrill of being his passenger almost as much as I loved driving the track myself. It was instructive to see where & for how long he would brake and then hit the gas in the turns, and he would point out the lines he was taking, so I could improve my times (not that I was ever anywhere near his times, but I could always improve my time after watching him).
Shared by Mary Denenberg on May 12, 2021
We knew Rod through Keely, our daughter-in-law. We enjoyed his company very much. He was always kind, friendly and willing to help out. I remember especially his joy in spending time with his grandchildren, Mia & Leo. He would light up whenever he saw them.

Mr. Outgoing

Shared by Keely Denenberg on May 7, 2021
I grew up witnessing my dad in all his extroverted glory, personable to everyone, busily charming even the grumpiest of sales clerks. At times it was amusing, mildly annoying, and sometimes confusing - why did he give so much of himself - put himself out there - to be friendly when it was sometimes not reciprocated or deserved?

Now, looking back, I think of his friendly nature as his gift to the world. I'm fairly sure there was no one who interacted with him and didn't walk away thinking he was wonderful - not because he was so busy talking about himself, but because he was genuinely interested in the other person, giving his time and energy to create a moment, even if fleeting.

I still will never be that person who sits on a plane and tries to make friends with their seatmate (I'm a headphones on and eyes down immediately traveler), but I appreciate what he was willing to offer other people: his friendliness, charm, and optimistic view of life, to strangers and friends alike.

Message from Harley Wood

Shared by Nina Harris on May 5, 2021
Nina just wanted to let you know what a wonderful memorial site you and your family have created for Rod. It is very special and so enjoyed looking at the pictures. I have very fond memories of working with him and how he would get so excited getting his vipers and latter on the Camaro ready for track day! He greatly mentored me in my career and very thankful that he was a part of my life he will be greatly missed Again my deepest sympathies, Harley Wood  

Just Jump In!

Shared by Keely Denenberg on May 4, 2021
Rod's style of life was to "jump in" never "ease in" the water (in just about every aspect of his life). When I was about four, I distinctly remember not wanting to go in the water (this is when we had our little brown boat, on Lake Monroe). Despite my protestations, I was unceremoniously thrown in to "learn to swim" by Dad.

Don't worry, though, I had on a lifejacket - there were strict rules around that, and until I was probably a teen (and a very good swimmer) any time Tyler and I were on the boat (or on a dock) we were required to wear a lifejacket.

New Car

Shared by Keely Denenberg on May 3, 2021
Dementia sucks, but in the spirit of my dad, who was always positive, I'm going to share a story about how it gave me the opportunity to bring Dad some repeated happiness.

In January I bought a beautiful sports car (Rod wasn't the only person in the family with a lead foot and a love of cars). Even though he saw it the day I bought it, he didn't remember the next time I saw him. So every time I saw him after I bought it, I got to tell him "I bought a new car!", describe the details, and show him pictures. And each time, it was as if it was the first time he heard the exciting news, and he was thrilled over and over again.

A Good Neighbor Is A Priceless Treasure

Shared by Kevin Parsons on May 3, 2021
Laurie and I were fortunate to be able to call Rod and Nina neighbors for many years while in Farmington, Michigan. Our planned (and often improvised) get togethers usually ended up with some great stories and laughs, perhaps hors d'oeuvres, possibly a BBQ and often a good bottle of wine.
I always looked forward to Hot Rod's (the nickname I gave him) return from a "race weekend" to hear the stories and get the play-by-play. My enjoyment came in seeing someone that had so much passion and enthusiasm for something, you could see the delight and excitement in his eyes while recounting the weekend's events.
Rod had that same passion and enthusiasm for his Family and you could see it whenever he talked about his Family or when he announced that Family was coming to visit. In racing vernacular, this would get revved up even further with the arrival of his Grand Kids who he absolutely adored. So, rest in peace my friend, you will be dearly missed and our condolences go out to the entire Harris Family.

Christmas Eve Drive

Shared by Gary Denenberg on May 3, 2021
Years ago my family was at the river house in East China for Christmas and the phone rang on what I'm pretty sure was Christmas Eve - 
it was Tyler saying he had a car accident while driving to see us. He was kind of stranded in the middle of nowhere maybe 500 miles away and while Keely, Nina and I tried to figure out a plan (i.e., nearby rental car facilities, airports, trains, etc.) Boppa quietly left the room to prepare for a long road trip to pick up Tyler and then drive back so we could all be together for Christmas.

No four letter words or any complaining at all, to him this was no big deal and off he went.

Waterskiing

Shared by Keely Denenberg on May 2, 2021
Dad LOVED waterskiing. In addition to slalom skiing, he had "trick" skis (see the gallery for black and white shots of him on his trick skis) where he could jump the wake and turn backwards. Unlike regular skis, they are wider and don't have any fins on the back.

I believe that the reason he started running was to get in better shape so he could ski for longer periods of time. After he was older and wasn't able to ski any longer, he loved to live vicariously and take me out skiing on the St. Clair River early in the morning (when the water was smooth, before boat traffic). It was almost more disappointing for him than me when I herniated my back and I gave it up (at least as of now).

No Language Necessary

Shared by Keely Denenberg on May 2, 2021
Leo is Deaf and solely uses ASL to communicate. Because Dad's cognitive decline began years ago, it meant he wasn't able to retain much knowledge of signs. However Leo adored my dad - they got along incredibly well and were always laughing and smiling while they played. The language of fun is universal and they were both fluent!

Always Capable & Supportive

Shared by Keely Denenberg on May 2, 2021
One time when I was living in Chicago, probably 25 years ago, not long after I had moved there after college, I had a shitty old car and had left on a Friday night to drive back to Michigan to my parents' house. My car broke down in Gary, Indiana, on the highway. A police officer drove me to a gas station, and I called my dad. He said hold on - I'm on my way - and sure enough about 3 hours later he pulled up and rescued me. (We ended up sending that car to the junk yard straight from where it was towed....)

It seems like there was no problem he couldn't fix, and he always seemed to know what do to. He was one of the most capable people I've ever known.

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