Colonel Elwyn Richard “Rich” Harris, Jr. obit

Colonel Elwyn Richard “Rich” Harris, Jr. passed from this life into life eternal on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. Rich, the son of the late Elwyn and Ophelia (Bass) Harris, was born and raised in Springs, East Hampton, New York. He was preceded in death by his sister, Beth Harris. He is survived by his beloved wife of 50 years, Deborah Davis Harris; his children, Heather Harris, Brooke (Jeffrey) Thompson, Amy Harris, Anna Harris and Micah (Kellen) Harris; and his grandchildren, Jonathan, Katherine, David, Grace, Timothy, MaryAnna and Galia Thompson.  
 
After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Baker University in Kansas in 1969, Rich was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the United States Air Force. While in pilot training at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, he met and married his wife, Deborah. Rich served in the Air Force for 10 years. He was the “TOP” graduate in his T-37 Pilot Instructor Training Course and went on to proudly serve his country as an instructor pilot, a C-130 aircraft commander, a computer systems analyst, and a Vietnam War Veteran.  
 
Rich and Deborah embraced life together as they relocated many times around the States and the Far East. As much as he enjoyed experiencing culture around the world, Rich had always had a desire to live in Tennessee, where his mother had been raised. In 1980, he had the opportunity to leave active duty in the Air Force and join the Tennessee Air National Guard as a pilot in the 105th Tactical Airlift Squadron. Rich served as the Base Wing Commander of the 118th Airlift Wing from 1998 until his retirement in 2006.  
 
Over his 36-year career, he was a command pilot with over 8,000 military flying hours and numerous deployments to the Far East, Europe, Central and South America, and Alaska. Rich’s list of service and accomplishments are many. He loved his work. Most importantly, he considered it a great honor to serve with the outstanding men and women stationed at Berry Field in Nashville, Tennessee.  
 
Living in Tennessee allowed Rich to fulfill his life-long dream of becoming a bona fide farmer. When he wasn’t wearing a flight suit, he was quick to put on his jeans and work boots to tend to his garden, chickens, or other projects such as helping friends and neighbors with their cars, home repair and renovations, or building his wife a pottery studio. He was always championing others to fulfill their dreams and destiny.  
 
Rich was a man who loved God, family and country. He served as a founding elder at The Gate Church in Franklin, Tennessee. His passion was always to care and provide for others—whether it was his wife and children, single mothers and widows who needed someone to offer practical assistance with maintenance, or young men he took under his wing to mentor and encourage. In the last few years, he and his wife spent summers restoring his family home and creating a place of community, rest, and rejuvenation in the beautiful town of East Hampton, New York.  
 
Rich will always be remembered for his kindness, humility, quiet confidence, quick laugh and joy in serving those around him. He was a man of faith, hope, humor, and a loving husband, father, and grandfather. He never missed an opportunity to joke and he loved to share a good meal. His legacy will live on through his greatest treasure—his family.  
 
Visitation with the family will be Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021 at 10 a.m., followed by a celebration of Colonel Harris’ life at 11 a.m. at The Gate, 4040 Murfreesboro Rd, Franklin, Tennessee 37067. Burial will follow with military honors at 2 p.m. at the Middle Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery, 7931 McCrory Lane Nashville, Tennessee, 37221.  
 
Memorial contributions may be made to support Vanuatu missions, a healthcare clinic and medical outreach co-founded by Anna Harris and her YWAM team in the South Pacific. To give visit www.thegate.cc/give and designate "Vanuatu Mission".  An online guestbook is available at AustinFuneralService.com  615-377-0775 

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