In Memoriam: Willard “Bill” Harris, Jr.

On March 14, 2022, a very great man, friend and ally to our communities in East Africa passed away.

Bill Harris was generous beyond measure and wholeheartedly committed to helping elevate some of the most disenfranchised people in the world. Global Partners for Development is fortunate to be counted among he and his spouse Harriet’s many philanthropic endeavors. He loved the “brick and mortar” aspect of our work. He saw his impact firsthand in the many classrooms, water projects, and clinics made possible through his family’s contributions, and especially in the proud and uplifted lives of the thousands of beneficiaries, school children, parents, teachers, and villagers whose lives he touched and whose futures were filled with unexpected possibilities.

Bill first traveled with Harriet, several of their children, grandchildren and friends to East Africa on a Global Partners trip in 2004, and again and again with additional family members on multiple subsequent trips. Along with their enjoyment of the wildlife and vistas, the family especially loved the personal connection with community leaders and villagers. As the recipients of a Harris family sponsored, life-saving water development project, the villagers of Arkaria Village, Tanzania, welcomed the guests by forming an enormous circle, where each visitor was in turn greeted by each villager in a great circumambulation of mutual respect.

Bill had to be regularly nudged to keep the proceedings moving, as he enjoyed himself so thoroughly being with every single villager in that line, lingering and affording each man and woman seemingly all the time in the world, extending a hand, giving the local language a try, amused at his own inability to master the salutation. His smile was as wide as the African sky, making people laugh and creating a raucous welcoming celebration for the ages.

That was the essence of Bill, to the edification of his family, friends, Global Partners, and the local people who became, to him, like family. As Arkaria leader Alais Morindat wrote to Harriet, “To us Bill was our great friend and brother, who gave life, hope, and financial resources that have today transformed the livelihood of many thousands of our people. We share with you the feelings of very, very great loss at this moment of great sorrow. We pray for you and your entire family that God gives you the courage to face this difficulty.”

To Bill and his family, we say, in the language of Maasai, “Ashe naleng.” Thank you.


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