The woman who died last week shortly after President Obama visited her restaurant was honored Thursday for the home she created for her family, friends and customers.
The funeral for Josephine “Ann” Harris was held at Holiness Church of Christ, a half mile down South Hawkins Avenue from Ann’s Place, the family-owned restaurant that has served West Akron for some 30 years.
“Sure it’s a business,” said family friend Larry Stewart during the service. “But that restaurant also was another home.”
Pastor Jeffrey Bell explored the various meanings of the home — temporal and spiritual — in his eulogy.
“Ann’s Place is home, a place where people knew your name, a place of memories,” Bell said. “She created those memories for us.”
Harris, who was 70, had suffered poor health this year. But she was thrilled when she learned that President Obama chose Ann’s Place for his first stop on the second day of a bus tour through Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Obama’s motorcade arrived at Ann’s Place about 8:30 a.m. on July 6. He ate breakfast and greeted other customers in the small diner.
Harris came from home and Obama hugged her in the parking lot.
But within hours of the visit, she fell ill and was rushed to the hospital. She died about 11:15 a.m.
Wilma Parsons, Harris’ daughter, received a phone call from the president that afternoon expressing his condolences.
Harris’ son, Billy Parsons, said his mother endured her health problems with dignity and was always a “breath of sunshine.”
“Her final burst of happiness, of course, was meeting our president,” he said. “My mother was a big fan of our president and she truly was honored with his visit and so was our family.”
Parsons said his mother’s support for friends and family was tireless throughout her life.
“The words that come to mind include independence, courage, generosity, sensitivity, integrity, love, laughter, dignity and indeed the word life itself,” he said. “Few people I have ever known lived life as fully or as well as my mother.”
The funeral procession passed by Ann’s Place on the way to Greenlawn Memorial Park.
John Higgins can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.