It was 1957 when Claude “Buzzie” Harris first laid eyes on Nancy Cooper at a party at George Washington University.
“I noticed her right away,” Harris would say when asked about that fateful night. “I thought she was real cute.”
Both graduates of George Washington High School — he in 1949 and she in 1956 — the couple married on Feb. 27, 1960 at the former Second Presbyterian Church at the corner of Prince and St. Asaph streets, a memory that always elicited laughs when Harris recounted how they arrived at that date.
“It fit in between hunting and fishing seasons,” the avid outdoorsman would reveal with a twinkle in his eyes.
A devoted husband and father, Harris died July 29 at Alexandria Hospital with Nancy, their only son David, daughter-in-law Mary and grandsons Will, Wade and Jack by his side. Close family friend Leslie Klingensmith was also in attendance.
Born Aug. 12, 1931 in Washington, D.C., Harris grew up in the City of Alexandria. After earning a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech, Harris went on to serve in the U.S. Air Force. Upon returning home, he entered the family business, C. B. Harris and Company, a plumbing and heating contractor in Alexandria.
Harris semi-retired when the family business closed in 1982. After a few years, he became a residential real estate appraiser. In 2008, he retired for good to become "a kept man,” as he liked to joke in reference to Nancy continuing her work at the Salvation Army National Headquarters.
An active Rotarian and past president, Harris achieved a perfect attendance record of more than 50 years with the Alexandria Rotary Club. In his spare time, he volunteered his time helping others, both locally with organizations such as Meals on Wheels and on international mission trips. Harris also served for several years as commissioner of the Alexandria Little League.
“Buzzie was always looking to help people out,” said Lee Duncan, a fellow Rotarian who knew Harris for more than 30 years. “He had so many friends in Alexandria through his decades of service to the community. He will be missed.”
As his wedding anniversary approached earlier this year, Harris was asked to share his secrets to a happy marriage. His eyes welled up as he spoke of Nancy, his wife of 53 years.
“It's a cliché but be considerate of each other and don't go to bed mad,” he said. “And don't forget that you are a gift from God to each other. I have been blessed to be able to share my life and my faith with Nancy.”
A memorial service will be held Thursday, Aug. 1 at 2 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 2701 Cameron Mills Road in Alexandria. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to The Rotary Foundation, Westminster Presbyterian Church or The Salvation Army. A register book can be found at www.everlyfuneralhomes.com.