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Major Charles ‘Charlie’ Willard Harris

(March 1, 1918 - Dec. 11, 2012)

Major Charles “Charlie” Willard Harris, 94, of Cody, died peacefully at Spirit Mountain Hospice on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. He was Cody’s oldest living Marine and honorably served his country.

Charles was born on March 1, 1918 to William Judson and Norma Belle Harris.

He attended Western Elementary and Senior High in Chillicothe, Ohio. It was there he met the love of his life, Miriam Arlene Hartman, and they were married in Chillicothe on June 16, 1942. Miriam and Charlie were happily married for 59 years.

Charlie attended Ohio State University where he majored in Music Education and played in the Ohio State Marching Band, Concert Band, the University Orchestra and sang in the Men’s Glee Club and Chorus. His major instrument was the cornet. He graduated from Ohio State in 1940.

Charles enlisted in the Marines after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and trained at the Marine Boot Camp in Parris Island, S.C. He shot expert on the pistol and rifle. After boot camp, he attended Radio Operators School at Quantico, Va. and was later sent to Camp Lejeune to assist the Marine Landing Force in making beach landings in preparations for the Japanese offensive.

He attended Officer’s Candidate Class and then Officer’s Advance Training School.

Charles was assigned to U.S. Navy Code and Cipher School in Los Angeles, and then attended the Air Force School in Connecticut to learn close air-ground communications. His next duty was as communications officer in Marine Air Ground Intercept Squadron 13. He was honorably discharged in October 1944. During this time he remained a member of the USMC 8th Infantry Battalion in a reserve status. He re-enrolled at Ohio State University and obtained his master’s degree in instrumental and vocal music. Later, Charles was sent to the First Marine Air Wing in Korea and then to Itambi Air Force Base in Japan as Base Communications Officer. When he returned to the U.S. he transferred from reserve to active duty USMC and was promoted to Major.

From there, he went on to serve the Marine Corps in Virginia, North Carolina, the Caribbean Islands and San Diego. He was assigned to a Special Joint Task Force operating in Washington and California for the Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines.

On July 1, 1963, Charles retired from the Marines after 21 years and serving in three wars: World War II, Korea and Vietnam. He and his family decided to settle down in Bonita, Calif.

He taught music and English at Chula Vista High School for 18 years while the family managed a training stable for hunter-jumper horses. After retiring from teaching, Charles and Miriam traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Middle East, Alaska, Mexico and the U.S. In 2000, after a long and happy time in California, Charles and Miriam decided to move to Cody to live with Jo and her husband Don, so Jo could assist in the care of her mother who had terminal cancer. Charlie was happy living in Cody and had many friends.

Charles was a member of the Cody United Methodist Church and choir, the Cody Rotary Club and Cedar Mountain Amateur Radio Club. He was a proud member of the VFW Post 2673, the American Legion Post 20 and the Marine Corps League Eugene Sara Det. Post 418, Montana. Being the oldest Marine in the Cody area, he celebrated the cutting of the cake at the Marine Corps Birthday Ball for nine years.

He is survived by daughters Jo (Don) Van Ort of Cody, Judi Highland of Thornton, Colo.; son Johnathan Harris of Deer Park, Wash.; grandchildren Guy (Kris) Highland of Cody, Kristi Murphy of Phoenix, Ariz., Kelli Highland of Thornton, Colo., Breanne (Ryan) Mangis of Spokane, Wash.; and numerous great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his wife Miriam Harris; parents Norma Belle Harris and William Judson Harris; and brother William Norman Harris.

Memorial services will be at Cody United Methodist Church on Saturday, Dec. 22 at 10 a.m. His cremated remains will be buried at Riverside Cemetery following the service with military honors provided by VFW Post 2673 Honor Guard.

Memorial donations may be made to Spirit Mountain Hospice, 808 Canyon View Ave., Cody, WY 82414.

An online memorial is available at www.ballardfh.com.

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