SGM (ret) Thomas Roy Harris (June 15, 1959 – January 24, 2021)
Tom was born on June 15, 1959, to Lloyd Robert and Ardith Jean (Mertes) Harris in Atlantic, IA, at Atlantic Memorial Hospital. Tom was baptized at First Presbyterian Church, in Adair, IA, and confirmed at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Anita. The family resided in Anita, IA, where Tom attended both elementary and high school, graduating in 1977.
After high school, Tom attended Iowa State University. After one year, Tom began working with his father building bridges until he entered the military in 1988, joining the Army. In 1991 upon discharge from the Army, Tom joined the Iowa National Guard. Tom served tours in Korea, returned stateside during Desert Storm, and served a tour in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2005-2006, where he earned the nickname “Yardhawk” from his brothers-in-arms.
Tom was medically retired from the Iowa Army National Guard on April 7, 2013, which also served as his final pinning ceremony. He ended his career with our armed forces as Sergeant Major Thomas Harris. In his retirement, Tom enjoyed spending time with family, gardening, hunting and trapping. He also served on the Anita City Council, and was serving as Mayor of the City of Anita at the time of his death. Tom battled cancer for ten years, defying the odds several times. He came home to be close to family on Thursday, January 21, 2021, entrusted to the care of Hospice at Caring Acres. His final days were spent with visits from family and friends. He was feeling better and more at peace than he had been in quite some time and was ready to meet his Lord and Savior.
Tom loved his mother and his sisters dearly but often times merely tolerated them. He learned to love the outdoors partly as a way to escape being out-numbered. His favorite times were spent outside and with his nieces and nephews, and great-nieces and nephews; he loved and protected them fiercely. He instilled in each of them a strong work ethic and led this venture by example. He enjoyed researching his family history and learning where he came from; and he enjoyed sharing this information. His nieces and nephews often joked about all the information he was able to share, especially how far back he managed to go (we never knew who he was talking about)! He was a collector of coins and books, enjoying the history behind each. His love of books is shared among the family and it wasn’t unusual for him to be reading multiple books at the same time, on more than one topic. He firmly believed that knowledge was power and never stopped learning. Tom also loved spending time with his service dog, Missy, and the two were nearly inseparable. He was a fan of the Iowa State Cyclones enjoying bantering with Uncle Larry Harris, a big Nebraska fan, cheering on the Hawks so long as the two teams weren’t playing. He also enjoyed watching the Chicago Cubs and Kansas City Chiefs. He will be thrilled to have the best seat in the house as the Chiefs take on the Buccaneers in the Super Bowl!
His family will remember him as loving those who feel unlovable, giving grace and lots of second chances, teaching lessons they didn’t know they needed, and sharing stories of all his life’s adventures. He was fiercely loyal; once you were a friend he would defend you without question. He was a great storyteller and never spared a detail. He believed without a doubt that Jesus Christ was his Lord and Savior and prayed for everyone. He had no doubt that his sins would be forgiven and his faith would take him home to the Kingdom of Heaven, greeted by some of his favorite people.
Tom is survived by his mother, Ardith; his sisters, Keri Hicks of Tempe, AZ; Lori (Ryan) Glissmann of Anita, IA; Jody (Kevin) Meyer of Indianola, IA; Michelle Renee (Heath) Hartwig of Cedar Falls, IA; and his brother-in-law, T J Hicks, of Tempe, AZ.
Tom is also survived by the loves of his life - his many nieces, nephews, and great-nieces and nephews: John (Tiphani) Glissmann, their children Parker, Hayden, Connor, Bennett, and Braylee; Robert (Cassie Herrig), their children Rylan and Calum; Meghan (Clayton) Dorsey, their children Ashten and Reid; Graydon (Carla) Hicks, their children Emma, Emery, Lilly, and Natalie; Kaitlin (Nick) Hodges and their children, Sophia, Karver Thomas, and Ryker; Kylie Hicks and her baby due in August 2021; Jordanne Meyer and her children, Amaya and Ruger; Shelby Hartwig (Kobe Smith); Bailey Hartwig; and Nicole Popp, mother of Rylan, Kirra, and Nora. Tom is also survived by many aunts, uncles, and cousins, as well as many of his brothers and sisters of the 224th Engineer Battalion and the Iowa Army National Guard.
Tom is preceded in death by his father, grandparents Fred and Viola Mertes, and Earl and Elma Harris; his nephew, Kegan Meyer, and great-nephew, Luka Hodges, and Rachel Glissmann, mother of Parker, Hayden, and Connor.
The family thanks you for the outpouring of support. Tom touched many lives over the years, each of them being better for having had him in it.
Visitation with family will be from 10:00 – 11:00 a.m. with a funeral starting at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, January 30, 2021, at Zion Lutheran Church in Atlantic, Iowa.
Hockenberry Family Care in Anita, Iowa, is in charge of the arrangements.