August 13, 1920 - July 17, 2014
Helen D. Harrison
August 13,1920-July 17, 2014
Helen Dohanos Harrison, our dear Mema, passed peacefully into the arms of the Lord on July 17th, less than a month before her 94th birthday. Helen was born in Lorain, Ohio to parents Andrew Dohanos and Elizabeth (Cseh) Dohanos. Her brothers Andrew, Bert, Stevan (a famous artist whose illustrations were featured on US Postage Stamps and covers of the The Saturday Evening Post), Bill, Julius, and sisters Elizabeth, Irene, and Margaret predeceased her. There are numerous Dohanos nieces, nephews, great-nieces, and great-nephews living in Ohio, California, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon, and Texas. After Helen graduated from Lorain High School in 1938 she worked at a local department store and also began modeling clothes. While working as a model Helen acquired her wonderful sense of style and grace. A friend, Helen Susi, introduced Helen to her brother, Michael Susi. Soon after she met Michael, he left for California and military service in the US Navy. Helen decided to go to Texas to visit her brother, Bert, and his wife, Helen. After her visit in Texas, she traveled to California to see Michael, who was now an Ensign. Michael and Helen married on March 26,1945 in Long Beach, CA. After the war, they moved to Dallas. She worked in sales for Volks Brothers Department Store, while Michael worked for Neiman Marcus in the accounting department. In the 1950’s and 60’s, Helen worked as the buyer and manager of The Black Tulip Art Gallery in Inwood Village, Dallas. Helen also worked for several years as an executive secretary at the SMU School of Law.
Helen and Michael remained happily married until his death from cancer on October 1,1966. After her loss she prayed to be needed. On April 23rd of 1967, she met Jim Harrison, who had also suffered a loss–his wife, Elizabeth, on August 19th 1966. Helen and Jim quickly realized they shared many of the same interests, beliefs, and experiences. They fell in love and married on May 12, 1967, thus beginning their new life together. They would stay happily married for 36 years, until Jim passed away in 2003.
Helen loved Jim’s children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Her many talents, elegant style, and warm hospitality helped make what Jim used to say was “a wonderful home” for him and his family. Helen and Jim, or as their grandchildren knew them, Mema and Granddaddy, would host great parties for Joan, Carol, Steve, Margaret, and their spouses and children at Christmas time. Festivities would start on Christmas Eve with the Harrison family’s own version of white elephant gifts called “silly presents,” and the fun would carry over into Christmas morning when the grandchildren would receive their gifts from Santa. The entire Harrison clan would exchange gifts and enjoy a lovely Christmas brunch. Indeed Helen’s brunches and holiday dinners were legendary. At Christmastime, Helen and Jim always enjoyed their annual visit with Claire and Jim, who were prior neighbors and very dear friends. They would drop by, with a gift of Claire’s delicious candy, and catch up on all the news of their families.
Helen enjoyed cooking and had an extensive cookbook collection. She also loved crocheting, knitting, Bargello, sewing, and antiquing furniture. Helen enjoyed working the Wonderword puzzles (“circle-circle” as she called them) and the daily New York Times and Dallas Morning News crossword puzzles–a hobby she maintained for over 47 years. Helen enjoyed the sewing club she belonged to for 30 years, and she was a member of the Justamere Book Club for many years as well. Reading books remained one of her favorite pastimes throughout her life. Helen loved to travel and would often accompany Jim on wonderful duck hunting trips to Rockport on the Texas coast. Helen and Jim enjoyed duck hunting with his brother, Dr. Ben F. Harrison, and his wife, Gene. Ben, who was also a pilot, would often fly the four of them down to Rockport. Helen and Jim also enjoyed bringing their children and grandchildren along on these excursions. In the often harsh weather on the coast, Helen showed that she was a real trooper. Before they left in boats to get to the hunting blinds on those cold mornings, she would take small biscuit and bacon sandwiches wrapped in a napkin and a thermos full of hot coffee to help them stay warm and satisfied while they waited in the blinds. Her grandson, Glenn, later recalled that ritual in a poem he composed about duck hunting. Helen also traveled to England and Scotland with her dearest friend of nearly 60 years Doris Beale (later Riedel). Doris’s sons, Chuck and Greg, were so dear to her as well. Helen met one of her closest friends when Revill and her husband, Rosie, moved into the neighborhood. Helen and Revill began walking at NorthPark Mall several mornings each week. Helen would say her favorite part of that morning ritual was visiting over coffee afterwards.
After Jim’s death, she enjoyed her brother Julius’ regular visits when he would travel from Lorain to Dallas for a two-week stay twice a year. During his stay, they would brush up on their Hungarian, cook traditional Hungarian dishes, and work on some project together–painting, refinishing furniture, or just repairing whatever wasn’t working properly. Helen’s niece, Florence, and her husband, Bob, in Ohio, also held a special place in Helen’s heart. They always remembered her with phone calls, cards, letters, photos, and boxes of candied ginger. Helen’s sister-in-law, Helen Sinclair (Michael’s sister), was also very dear to her. They enjoyed catching up during their frequent phone calls. Her other sister-in-law, Helen Holmes, was always such an inspiration to her as she has lived to be over 105 years old. Julius’ daughters, Dee Dee and Debbie, always showed their love for Helen by sending her flowers, cards, and news of the Dohanos family. Helen so enjoyed visits from her great nieces Evelyn Morgan, Patty Loop, and Amy Morris.
Helen was a loving, strong, direct, and determined woman. She conquered cancer in 1959 and again in 1974, had open heart surgery in 1998, and then had another bout of cancer after that. She enjoyed her life, her family, and her friends. Helen always strove to learn new things. Her faith sustained her all of her life, and she always felt blessed and thankful.
Helen is survived by her family: Jim’s daughters Joan Elizabeth Kachtick and husband, Jim, Carol Louise Carroll and husband, Hollis, Margaret Lea Michero and husband, Randy, and Jim’s son Jim Steven Harrison; grandchildren Kim Walters, Kelli Blanton and husband, Eddy, Glenn Harrison and wife, Stefani, Chris Harrison, Beth Bader and husband, Jeremy, Jim Carroll and fiancé, Alan Lewis, Ryan Michero and wife, Veronica, and Lauren Michero; great-grandchildren Katie Carrell and husband, Thomas, Joseph Olivas, Erin and Riley Maloney, Hank and Sam Harrison, Joshua and Taylor Harrison, Harrison Blanton, Evan and Mary Michero, and great-great-grandchild Kelea Carrell. Granddaddy and Mema’s beloved grandson, Michael Walters, predeceased them.
With heartfelt gratitude and love, we thank Helen’s friend, housekeeper, and caregiver Leticia (Letty). She made Helen’s last years brighter with her kindnesses, her joyful spirit, and her smile. Letty and her husband Jesús’ three sweet daughters would go to visit Helen and bring her gifts of love– handmade Birthday and holiday cards, Christmas gifts, and homemade flan.
Our sincere thanks to Dr. Bryan Allison, Helen’s physician. Also, a special “thank you” to all of the caring people at Vitas Hospice: Chaplain Gilberto, all of Helen’s nurses including Peter, Kyle,Yessica, Darla, Susan, Lupe, and Zena–and many thanks to Gloria.
The Memorial service will be held on August 30th at 10:30 AM at University Park United Methodist Church.
Contributions in her memory may be made to the Church or charity of your choice.
Arrangements are under the direction of:ARIA Cremation Service & Funeral Home 10116 E. NW Highway Dallas, TX 75238 214.340.8008