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Food Culinary 08


Marilyn Betty Harrison

October 24, 1933 ~ July 6, 2018 (age 84)
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Marilyn Betty Miller was born on Tuesday, October 24, 1933 in Los Angeles, California to Roland and Betty Miller. She was the oldest of 4 children, having 3 brothers: Roland, Cloyd Edwin, and Marvin.

She attended Malabar Elementary School in Los Angeles until 4th grade, when her family moved to San Bernardino, where she attended Mill Street Elementary School, Sturges Junior High School, and San Bernardino High School until her senior year, when her father accepted a pastorate in Pasadena. The family moved back to the Boyle Heights area of Los Angeles and she graduated from Roosevelt High School.

In the year of her graduation, at a church social in San Francisco, she caught the eye of a young man who was beginning his ministerial career. His first words indirectly aimed at her were, "I don't believe I know the young lady in the blue dress," which he repeated to be sure he got her attention. Bob Harrison was a popular and talented San Franciscan and Marilyn was beautiful and very well regarded among the group of young people who were visiting from Los Angeles. A connection was made. It was around this time when Bob and his friend, Emanuel Williams, were traveling around California ministering in word and song that they received an invitation from Reverend Miller to his church. Bob enthusiastically accepted, delighted with the bonus of beginning a courtship with Marilyn that led to marriage a year later.

So, it was on July 6, 1952 that Marilyn was married to Bob Harrison. After honeymooning in Santa Barbara, they settled in San Francisco. Living conditions and Bob's traveling made things unbearable for her, so after their first son, Keith, was born, Marilyn left San Francisco to stay with her parents, during which time the postman wondered what was going on with the Special Delivery letters Marilyn kept getting from Bob, who wanted her to come back to San Francisco. She finally agreed, but things were not much better when he moved her back to an "apartment" in the projects complete with roaches, sounds of other residents coming though the thin walls (especially through the bathroom vent), and an icebox (not a refrigerator, but a box that was cooled by ice). But after their first daughter, Carol, was born, they moved to better accommodations on 7th Avenue, where daughter, Adrienne, was born, and then moved again to Lyon Street, where a second son, David, was born.

In 1964, the Harrisons bought their first house, moving out of San Francisco and into the suburbs of South San Francisco. By then, Bob's international ministry had begun with a trip to Germany and he had been an Associate Evangelist with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association for a couple of years. For Marilyn, between not having a driver's license, parenting four kids, and missing her husband who was away for long stretches traveling all over the world, it was a difficult time. Yet, she kept a loving home for her children, her hospitality was legendary, and she held on tight to the God she loved and trusted.

Perhaps the adventure of her lifetime began in 1967, when the family, under the auspices of missions organization, Overseas Crusades, moved to Manila, The Philippines. For two years, it was the springboard for evangelistic activities for Bob and where Marilyn found outlet for her own desire to minister the love and healing of the Lord Jesus Christ among abused and disadvantaged people. It was an eye opener for her to see that even "on the mission field" national pride and imposed separation of social classes impeded the gospel. Her sincere love for the people and direct assistance to them did not go unnoticed and she was embraced enthusiastically by the Filipinos as one of them. 

“Four and no more” had been the recurring theme for many years when the Harrisons were asked about the size of their family. But, when they came home to South San Francisco from the Philippines, Marilyn was expecting her third son, and four months later son, Steven, was born.

While Bob’s international ministry continued, the family kept moving almost every two years. Between 1971 and 2018, Marilyn lived in Cupertino, CA; Portland, OR; Canoga Park, CA; Concord, CA; Pittsburg, CA; and Napa, CA.

Her career was one of giving care, counseling, comfort, hospitality, friendship—she was a woman who loved. Throughout a life that was spent on others, her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the way, the truth, and the life that leads to God was tested much. There were wonderful times of fellowship and relative plenty when loved ones happily came to the Harrison home for a good time full of laughter, food, and reminders of God’s greatness. There were difficult times when people in trouble were drawn to her, and although she never saw herself as strong, she depended on the strength of the Lord as promised in Isaiah 40:31, that those whose hope is in Him will gain new strength, mounting up with wings as eagles, to run and not get tired, to walk and not faint.

Let me give an example of what I mean: Marilyn met a woman in the Philippines whose husband had been murdered in the street for not taking bribes from local “authorities”. This woman had so little means that there was an impending threat of her losing the shack where she lived and having her children taken away. As she and another missionary were visiting this woman, Marilyn simply promised her that she would make sure it didn’t happen. As she described it years later, Marilyn began praying as soon as she saw the conditions this woman was living in, and when she heard the story, her heart broke. She felt the Lord prompt her to say she would help and after saying it, whispered that silent prayer that people of true faith pray all the time, “Well, Lord, now what?” The truth was she didn’t have the money and she didn’t know how she was going to help, but she immediately asked the Lord to provide. And, as happened so many times in her life, the Lord came through with money received as it was needed and meant for her own family support. Yet, without hesitation, she helped this woman. She befriended her, made sure the children were fed and able to stay with their mother. And the Lord prompted someone else to make up the difference in the Harrison’s support, which in so many instances came “just in time”.

After having served the Lord together for 47 years and caring for Bob, who battled Alzheimer’s for the final 15 years of his life, Marilyn’s stamina and health were never the same. Not wanting to be burdensome, she kept the full details and seriousness of how sick she was to herself until she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in April of this year, with no plans for treatment due to the frailness of her body. She was cared for in her apartment by family, friends, and hospice service until she slipped away to be welcomed into the presence of her Lord at 1:18 A.M. on July 6th. That date was significant to her because of it being her wedding anniversary. In her final days, she indicated that she wanted to hold on until then. A sweet note to lighten the bitterness of her departure.

Marilyn Harrison was a woman of faith. She lived what she knew about God’s word and kept asking questions. Although her absolute trust in the sovereignty of God did occasionally waiver under the circumstances of life, she never gave it up. Even in the worst pain of her suffering, she continued to give God praise and thanksgiving for the love that she was surrounded by, the provision that was always enough, her assured salvation and hope of eternity, and the memories of places, experiences, and people that make up a life fully lived. And now, she is in the presence of her Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ. This is not intended as a euphemism for death. It is true because she accepted the promise of Scripture that for those who believe in and receive the Lord Jesus Christ, to be absent from the earthy body in death is to be present with Him in what He described to the thief on the cross as “paradise”. Whereas in this life we see spiritually as if through a smoky glass, and must live by faith, every question she had has now been answered and she knows Him, whom to know, is eternal life.

She leaves to cherish her memory her children: Keith (spouse Debra); Carol (spouse Jan); Adrienne (spouse Keith); David; and Steven (spouse Naomi); grandchildren: Marissa; Nicole; Erin; Ayo; Chris; Jonathan; Daniel; Myles; and Emma; great-grandchildren: Avery and Morgan; brother, Marvin and a host of relatives and friends. She was preceded in death by spouse, Bob Harrison; parents, Roland and Betty Miller; and brothers, Roland and Cloyd Edwin Miller.

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