December 26, 2009

USA: Pioneering physician Harris was present when 3,500 babies were born

. SARASOTA, Florida / Herald-Tribune Obituary / December 26, 2009 Dr. Willis Harris, pioneering physician remained close to his roots Willis Harris was born in Bee Ridge, in 1914 - when that small community and the newly incorporated city of Sarasota were part of Manatee County. Harris attended Sarasota High School, after Sarasota County was created in 1921, then graduated from Duke University and served in World War II. He then returned to his roots, making a new home in Manatee County. In the decades that followed, Harris brought life to his community, as a physician and civic leader. This doctor, who was present when more than 3,500 babies were born between 1946 and 1973, died recently. He was 95. Before retiring from active practice, Harris became the longest-serving physician in Manatee County, according to unofficial accounts. He helped create Manatee Memorial Hospital in 1953 and worked long and hard -- from the emergency room to the board room -- to make it bigger and better. He was known for more than longevity, though. Harris had, friends agreed, an indomitable, remarkable spirit. "I do not remember ever seeing him when he did not seem happy, enthusiastic, cheerful," longtime Herald-Tribune editor John Hamner wrote in a column published in 1998. Harris cared enough about the hospital and its patients to become a volunteer at the hospital after his retirement. He had the humility to report to Manatee Memorial each week -- to happily escort patients or do whatever else was asked. Manatee and Sarasota counties have experienced changes unimaginable when Harris was born. Fortunately, the good doctor's commitment to community never changed. [rc] Copyright © 2009 HeraldTribune.com