Pastors' Memoirs

Archie Virgil Harris, 1925-2002

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  A. Virgil Harris, 80, passed away unexpectedly on Dec. 22, 2002, in Charlottesville. He was ordained as an elder of the Virginia Conference in 1958. He retired to his home in Charlottesville in 1986 where he attended Aldersgate United Methodist Church. A memorial service was held at Aldersgate on Jan. 3, 2003, conducted by the Rev. John B. Peters, the Rev. Matthew W. Jones, and the Rev. James W. Thornton.

  Virgil was born on Aug. 20, 1922, in Troutville, Va. He was the youngest, and the last survivor, of 12 children born of the Rev. William Charles Harris (also a Methodist minister) and Jennie Mae Wells Harris. After serving in World War II, he graduated from the high school division of Ferrum College where he was a classmate of Virginia Mae Powell, soon to be his wife and beloved companion of 56 years. After attending Ferrum, he attended Randolph-Macon College in Ashland where he received his bachelors degree in 1949, majoring in economics. He was awarded the Pi Gamma Mu honorary society key for honors in the study of the social sciences. He was subsequently awarded his Master of Science in counseling from the Richmond Professional Institute, now Virginia Commonwealth University. He also attended the University of Virginia for doctoral studies in the department of Education.

  While a teenager in high school, Virgil enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II. He served in the Pacific Theater as a paratrooper. He was a member of the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment and jumped in combat as a member of the "second wave" of the assault to retake Corregidor in the Philippines, commanded by General MacArthur. He was also a member of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

  The decision to go into the ministry of the United Methodist Church came in 1958. Prior to that time, Virgil was a resident of Louisa and worked for the Virginia Departments of Health and Education. While in Louisa, he served as lay minister, youth counselor, Sunday school teacher and Scoutmaster at Louisa Methodist Church. With the encouragement and guidance of the Rev. Joseph T. Carson Jr., Virgil chose to enter the ministry. He initially served churches in Culpeper and Orange counties. In 1963 he became the associate pastor and youth minister at First United Methodist Church in Charlottesville, serving with his good friend, the Rev. Howard R. Peters. Virgil later served as the minister at Scottsville, Hinton Avenue in Charlottesville, Providence in Richmond and Broad Street in Portsmouth.

  After retirement, Virgil continued to pursue his many hobbies as well as his love of reading books, keeping himself informed in many subjects, and especially in religion, philosophy, and Civil War history. He also avidly pursued his love of physical fitness — running a marathon at age 65 and lifting weights and jogging on his treadmill daily until a week before his death. He also greatly enjoyed "grandfatherhood" during his retirement, traveling often to his second home in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, where he watched his only grandchild, Christopher, grow up.

  Virgil is survived by his wife, Virginia (the daughter of the late Rev. George Edward Powell of Louisa, who also served Methodist churches in Bassett, Montross, Amherst, North Garden and the Eastern Shore and who also encouraged Virgil to go into the ministry); one son, George E. Harris, an attorney in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (also a Randolph-Macon graduate) and his wife, Linda; one grandson, Christopher Powell Harris, a senior in high school and many, many nieces and nephews. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him.

— George E. Harris



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