June Eleanor Harris
A Tribute to the Founder of the Texas Gulf Coast Chapter of Women Marines Association
By: Marti Raney
June Harris, WWII veteran from 1943 – 1945 and lifetime member #16 of the WMA, was transferred to her final duty station on October 16, 2014 at the ever young age of 93. She passed peacefully into her final sleep with her family and Labrador companion, Shadow by her bedside in Conroe, TX. June Brickson was born on June 2, 1921 in Waukesha, WI. She graduated from Carroll College at the University of Wisconsin where she studied journalism prior to joining the USMCWR in 1943. While stationed in Miramar she met a Navy Commander from Texas in church and a week later she became Mrs. Edward J. Harris, the judge’s wife. In 1945, they were both honorably discharged from their respective branches and returned to June’s home state of Wisconsin where Ed got his law degree. June wasn’t idle during this time. She had started a political life of her own and was elected Wisconsin’s first woman justice of the peace.
Shortly after Ed got his law degree, they decided to move back to Ed’s home state of being a WM as a Wife and Mother of daughter Ann and son Edward. While in Galveston, June became very active in promoting her husband Ed’s political career. She was the voice behind the man and assisted him in getting elected to many offices from city council, to state representative and his last position as state district judge. She was very proud of Ed and his many accomplishments. She loved politics and being the judge’s wife. She was a thrill to be around, with her signature in her curly red hair and that scarlet smile.
June was an active member of WMA from the beginning in June of 1960, when she was contacted by WMA President Ruth Broe about the new organization. She quickly became a lifetime member and during the National WMA Convention in Hawaii, her suggestion of having the next convention in her present hometown of Galveston was approved. The only conflict was that there was no WMA chapter in the Galveston Area.
June, as the National Convention Coordinator for the WMA, was up to the task at hand though, and with the assistance of Captain Beverly Short, the WOSO assigned to the 6th District in New Orleans, the Texas Gulf Coast Chapter was chartered. To commemorate the 31st anniversary of Women on February 9, 1974, 21 of those Women Marines met for a luncheon at the Junior League Tea Room in Houston and organized the local chapter #45, designated as the Texas Gulf Coast Chapter of the Women Marines Association and June added Chapter President to her many titles.
June was a joy to be around and never met an adversary.
She was a friend to all and willing participants. She was like the Energizer Bunny and was active in numerous clubs and organizations such as the Beta Study Club, Galveston County Kennel Club, Red Cross, Cedar Lawn Garden Club, Galveston County Democratic Party, League of Women Voters, Galveston Art League, Galveston Historical Foundation, By the Sea Condo Residence Association, Moody Methodist Church, and The Marriot Forum of the Woodlands.
Ms. June, as many of us slightly younger in years called her, was my friend and neighbor. After Hurricane Ike hit Galveston, she moved a mile down the road from my residence in Conroe. We instantly became close and although 50 years apart in age, we were like sisters in the way only Women Marines know how. I loved hearing her tales from when Ed was alive and in politics and she was attending meetings with the First Ladies of the United States, I was just in awe as she talked about teasing Ladybird Johnson about a beautiful pin that the First Lady wore, but covered with a collar or scarf as not to appear to be putting on airs. She’d keep you laughing with her blunt honesty and she even kept the pastor of the church we attended together, on the edge of his seat. One of the most amazing things about Ms. June was the way she always made other feel important. She was the star of the show, but she always wanted to graciously share the spotlight. She would tell everyone we’d meet how I was a woman railroad engineer and drove trains and the way she’d talk about it, made me feel like the president of the railroad. It didn’t matter what you did in life, she’d make you feel like you were the best and the world would crumble without you!
Ms. June was cremated after her death and a memorial service was held November 15, 2014 in The Woodlands Funeral Home. I arrived early and placed Ms. June’s last bumper sticker of the Eagle, Globe and Anchor on the bottom of her urn. There were many friends and family in attendance and not a dry eye in the house, as her granddaughter, Mari Jones sung the Lord’s Prayer Aria Soprano. It was truly beautiful and Ms. June had good reason to be proud. President Judy Anderson read a brief bio on Ms. June’s history in the USMC and WMA, and closed with a “band of Sisters”. Pastor Jerry Frank of our local Cornerstone Assembly of God Church officiated the service and then we all went to the atrium where Ed’s ashes were already interned for the playing of the “Marines’ Hymn” and taps. TX-2 Vice President Karen Beatty presented the flag to Richard Jones, who is also a Marine. Area 6 Director Elizabeth Damron was also in attendance with her 3 year old son, Ryan, to pay her condolences. At the repast, there was a wreath made of the many flowered hairpins that Ms. June had received at her 90th birthday. We all left with a smile as we remembered the Marine and lady that traded a USMC ball cap for the flower of the season.
Semper Fidelis to our departed sister.