Written by: : Len Harris
He went to the big trout stream in the sky November 1967. He left behind a 39 year old bride and 6 children. Five daughters
varying in age from 17 to 3 years old and one son 10 years old. This was not how Len Harris Sr. had pictured his life ending.
He had always believed that he would live to be an old grandpa with many grandchildren. He could not even envision his bride being
left alone again. Fate could not be that cruel twice in her lifetime.
My mother (Jane) was actually quite familiar with death and being left alone. At age 16 my mother was orphaned along with her 3 other siblings.
My mother's parents each died of illness within a couple weeks of each other. The Chestelson children were thrown to the wind after their parents died.
The youngest Kurt was sent away to northern Wisconsin to an Aunt that needed a young male to help with the farm (Wittenberg). My oldest
uncle (Sig) was away in WWII. The oldest daughter (Betty Ann) went out on her own and landed in LaCrosse where she lived the majority of
her life. My mother (Mary Jane) lived with the local Drug Store owners (Ackermann's) until she was 18. The Ackermann's were the family's closest friends
and my mother did not have to move out of Gays Mills.
After my father died ,my mother became Father & Mother to me. She stressed going to church weekly and it ended up that I went about 5 times a week from age 5 to 15. I was an altar boy. She set by example going to church at least that many times a week.Mom stressed that women should be treated differently than men and women should be cherished. Another thing she set by example was Loving one person her entire life. My mother NEVER remarried or even thought about it. It would have been much easier on her with 6 children to have a husband...BUT....no one was taking my Dad's place.
My mother had her hands full with 5 daughters. Toddler to High School senior. She steered the Harris ship quite well and ALL of her children turned out as successful adults. I remember her stressing the need to manage ones finances and she instilled her work ethic in me. I spent many days in the ditches near the local high school picking up pop bottles for their 2 cent redemption. The nights in the rain with the flash light in my mouth and me crawling around on my hands and knees picking up night crawlers to sell to the local Sporting Goods store (3 cents a piece).
My father had given me the gift of loving the outdoors. My mother cultivated it. She made sure I had lures and decent fishing poles. She would go without so
us kids were in decent clothing and were properly raised. She would drive me out in the country and drop me off stream side and pick me up just before dark so I could explore new trout streams.
I can remember being jealous of the kids with Dad's and the toys the children got at xmas and birthdays. My gifts were quite modest compared to the mini bikes and snowmobiles my friends received. As a child I did not understand it well. Just recently my mother had an 80th birthday. We were talking and I told her about my thoughts as a child. She knew I felt that way and tried her hardest to provide for us. She told me she could see my disappoint in my eyes at xmas when I got socks and underwear. Mom told me that my father gave me the best "Gift" of all. ....The Love Of The Outdoors...... I hated to disagree with her on her 80th birthday but I did.
I told her the greatest gift I had ever received was having "HER" as my mother.
My Father & Mother on their wedding day.