Gary L. Harris, an Army veteran of the Vietnam war who was the current - and a former - commander of the American Legion post in Holland and a past commander of the legion county council, died of a heart attack yesterday in Medical College of Ohio Hospitals. He was 49.
Mr. Harris, of Springfield Township, had his first heart attack at 36. He had heart surgery nine years ago and received a pacemaker three years ago, his sister Wanda Spangler said.
Since his first heart attack, he was on disability retirement from The Andersons, where he had been a millwright at the riverfront grain terminal
He was commander this year of American Legion Holland Post 646, a position he held in the 1990s.
“He was very highly thought of,” said Butch Boulton, second vice commander of the Sons of the American Legion at the post. “He wanted to get stuff done, and he wanted to go up the ladder [in the legion].”
Members of the post and its related organizations found him easy to work with.
“He was always open to suggestions,” said Dolores Sobczak, president of the auxiliary. “Essentially he was quiet. Very rarely did you hear him raise his voice or get angry or upset. He seemed to take everything in his stride.”
Mr. Harris was a former commander of the Lucas County Council American Legion and was a former sergeant-at-arms of the American Legion first district. He was a member of the 40 & 8, an American Legion honor society.
“His whole life was for the legion,” his sister said. “He thought he could do some good if he could help another veteran with what [the veteran] was going through.”
Mr. Harris attended Springfield High School and received his General Educational Development diploma after enlisting in the Army.
He was in the military police during his year's tour in Vietnam, his sister said.
“He was right in the fighting. It was not good. He would not talk about it,” his sister said. “They went through hell over there. Every time I think of him, I think of that song, `Proud to be an American,' because that was him.”
Surviving are his daughter, Lynsi Harris; son, Gary L. Harris, Jr.; stepsons, Jeremy, Jon, Shaun, and Chad Ziehr; parents, Jack and Billie Harris; brothers, Danny and Jack Harris, Jr., and sisters, Wanda Spangler, Rhonda Jordan, and Jill Smith.
The family requests tributes to the Holland post.