Honoring Tradition.
Celebrating Life.

John W. "Jack" Harris Jr.

February 5, 1931 - October 26, 2018
Walker, Grand Rapids, MI



Tuesday, October 30, 2018
5:00 PM to 8:00 PM EDT
Heritage Life Story Funeral Homes
Alt & Shawmut Hills Chapel
2120 Lake Michigan Dr., N.W.
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
(616) 453-8263

There is not going to be a evening rosary.

Driving Directions


Wednesday, October 31, 2018
10:00 AM to 11:00 AM EDT
Sacred Heart Church
156 Valley Ave. SW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
(616) 459-8362


Wednesday, October 31, 2018
11:00 AM EDT
Sacred Heart of Jesus Church
156 Valley Ave. SW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
(616) 430-0429
Web Site


At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.

Alzheimer's Association, Northwest Michigan Chapter
2944 Fuller Ave, NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49505
(616) 459-4558
Driving Directions
Web Site

Spectrum Health Hospice
750 Fuller Avenue NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
(866) 542-7945
Driving Directions
Web Site

Life Story / Obituary


Throughout his rich and rewarding life, John W. “Jack” Harris Jr. made the most of each and every moment he was given. He was a man of honor and courage with a strong work ethic that remained well into his sunset years. Jack was an amazing husband and father, and he was so thrilled to become a grandfather and great-grandfather later in life. He was guided by an unwavering faith throughout his life, his life exemplifying what it means to be at the hands and feet of the Lord he loved. Big-hearted, warm and caring, Jack made a significant impact in the lives of so many. Dearly loved, he will be forever missed.

Life during the 1930s was primarily defined by the Great Depression after the crash of the stock market. A soaring unemployment rate, jobs that were nearly impossible to find, and Americans losing their homes were all part of the devastation of the time. Despite these challenges, John W. and Marcella (Mitchell) Harris were filled with great joy as they were blessed with the birth of their only baby boy they named John W. Jr. on February 5, 1931, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His father worked as a carpenter and car salesman while his mother was a loving homemaker. The fifth of six children, Jack was raised in the family home on Shirley Street, NW, alongside his siblings, Ruth, Winifred, Virginia, Connie, and Pat. As a family they attended St. Alphonsus Catholic Church. Jack in the earlier years attended St. Mary’s Elementary School and Catholic Central High School, class of 1949. While in school he also played football, basketball, baseball, and was a Golden Gloves boxer who even earned state champion in his weight class. When he was in the 12th grade Jack joined the Army National Guard and would serve for 12 years.

New and exciting changes were in store for Jack when he met the young woman who would forever hold the key to his heart. Her name was Geraldine “Gerrie” Paganelli, and they met through friends on a blind date. They got to know one another, began dating, and soon found themselves deeply in love. With a desire to spend the rest of their lives together Jack and Gerrie were married two years later on May 12, 1956, at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church where Gerrie was a member. A large traditional reception followed at St. Hedwig's Hall on the West Side. After a honeymoon in Niagara Falls, New York, the couple made their home at 261 Valley SW, where they would live until 1990. Together they welcomed four children; Jill, Beth, Marijo, and Tom. As a family they enjoyed weekends at the drive-in theater and looked forward to renting a cottage on several different lakes for two weeks each summer, often spending time there with extended family. They also spent their holidays with extended family members of the Harris and Paganelli families. Jack and Gerrie never missed a sporting or school event of their four kids, and Jack could always be heard the loudest on the sidelines "coaching and cheering" his kids on. Both Jack and his wife worked very hard in order to give their children a strong Catholic upbringing and education. Jack worked fulltime at Evans Products and part-time at the Grand Rapids Press, in addition to his two weeks each year serving in the National Guard.

Over the years Jack was one to keep busy. He and Gerrie were very active members of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church and School, helping in many church and school activities as well as being Eucharistic Ministers. Jack and Gerrie were also active in Stephens Ministry at Sacred Heart, counseling families and individuals in many ways. Jack was an avid bowler for many years often taking his kids with him on league night to give his wife time away from the kids. Jack enjoyed golfing and softball and played on various leagues as well as the Sacred Heart Church league. Jack was known for his peanut butter fudge that he would make at Christmas and that everyone loved. Jack and his wife often played Setback with other couples, rotating homes where they played. They often enjoyed weekends at Duba’s Restaurant with friends. Also within his community Jack was a longtime and active member of Knights of Columbus, 3rd Degree at Bishop Plagen's Council #3104, and helped to establish the John Ball Park Community Association. Over the years Jack and Gerrie were advocates for the West-Siders in many ways.

On April 16, 2005, Jack’s life was forever changed with the death of his beloved wife Gerrie, following a long bout with Alzheimer’s disease. His strong faith and the love of his family greatly sustained him during this time. Two months after the loss of his wife, his daughter Jill and husband Brian took Jack on a long motor home trip with their children to St. Louis, Graceland, Alabama, Florida; Savannah, Georgia; Annapolis, Maryland, Hershey Pennsylvania, Myrtle Beach and of course visiting the NFL Sports Hall of Fame. Several years earlier, Jack was surprised by his daughter Jill with his first and only airplane ride in a small private airplane, which he took with his grand-daughter Hillary; he loved that adventure.

Jack continued working at Evans for an amazing 63 years, retiring just four years ago. He did enjoy retirement as it gave him more time to spend with his children and grandchildren. Jack continued being there for all of their school and sporting events as well as all of their birthday celebrations. With a life that spanned times of war and times of peace, times of plenty and times of want, John W. “Jack” Harris Jr. was a gift in the lives of so many others. He worked hard, but he played hard too, but nothing was better than being surrounded by the ones he loved and the companionship of his Pug dog-Pudgy. With unending devotion to his family and friends, Jack and his kind heart and witty sense of humor, will never be forgotten.

John W. “Jack” Harris Jr., aged 87, of Walker, MI, peacefully passed away at his home, following a brief illness, on Friday evening, October 26, 2018 with his loving family at his side. He was preceded in death by his wife of 50 years, Gerrie Harris (Paganelli), parents, John and Marcella Harris Sr., parents-in-law, Caesar and Josephine Paganelli; siblings, Ruth Harris Gildersleeve, Winifred (Bart) Schmucker, Virginia Ensley, Connie (Jim) Kellogg, and Pat (Wes) Stewart. He is survived by his children, Jill (Brian) Malone, Beth (Dennis) Axdorff, Marijo (Ken) Bergman, Tom Harris; grandchildren, Hillary Malone, Daniel (Ashley) Malone, Alyssa Malone, Ashley (Chris) Hathaway, Joshua Axdorff, Chase Bergman, Cole Bergman, Christina Nickels, Olivia Harris; great grandchildren, Isabella and Caden Marcusse, Madison and Natalie Hathaway, Leonidas Axdorff; brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, Carl (Mary) Paganelli, Butch (Connie) Paganelli, Linda (Jim) Kozlowski; many nieces, nephews and friends. Jack retired at aged 83 from Evans-Tempcon where he worked for 63 years. He served in the Army National Guard for 12 years. He was a former Goldon Gloves Boxing State Champion, member of Knights of Columbus Bishop Plagens Council #3104, Stephens Minister, and charter member of John Ball Park Community Assn. He was a longtime member of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish where the Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Wednesday, October 31 at 11:00 am. Entombment in Resurrection Cemetery. Visitation will be at Heritage Lifestory Funeral Home, 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW, on Tuesday Oct 30, from 5:00 – 8:00 pm, and again at the church, 156 Valley Ave SW from 10:00 am until Mass begins at 11:00 am. Contributions in his memory may be made to Spectrum Health Hospice or Alzheimer’s Assn. To read more about Jack’s life, to leave your own memory of him and to sign his guest book, visit his web page at www.lifestorynet.com.