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Ever go through a restaurant drive-through and try to hand money to the cashier, only to find out the order has already been taken care of?

The cashier says the driver of the previous car had "paid it forward."

By that time, the car and driver are long gone. That was part of the plan. They didn't do it for a "Thank you" or any other kind of recognition.

They paid for your meal out of their wallet and the kindness of their heart.

One of those angels among us may have been Hank Harrison, but he would never admit to it. He's too humble to take credit for such a thing, or for any of the many acts of random kindness he's performed in Siloam Springs over the years.

In fact, he's not even sure why he will be one of two recipients of the 2018 Pioneer Citizen Award at a banquet hosted by the Siloam Springs Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, Feb. 1. Harrison found out he had been nominated when chamber president Wayne Mays called and asked Harrison to come down to his office.

"I was very surprised," Harrison said. "It seems like most of the people who have been awarded for this have done a lot more for the city than I feel like I have done, so it surprised me that I was nominated at all."

Because he took over his father's jewelry store in town at an early age, Harrison said he never really had time "to be civic-minded." He worked in the store six days a week and, when he wasn't working, he was coaching youth baseball and softball through the city's parks and recreation department and also through the boys and girls club. He signed up to coach his five kids, but stayed coaching for 40 years until finally hanging it up this past season.

Harrison made an impact with his players, although he jokes that "the kids sure learned a lot about losing." Those who know Harrison the best say Harrison has a big heart, but that he's also proficient in producing big laughs.

Hank's wife, Cheryl Harrison, tells people "he's kept me laughing for 50 years." The happy couple will celebrate their 51st wedding anniversary on Feb. 19.

Although Hank Harrison was surprised by the Pioneer Citizen Award, Cheryl Harrison believes her humble husband is deserving.

"I wasn't surprised because he is a very kind-hearted person," Cheryl Harrison said. "He was a late-in-life child. His parents were older, so he took care of them while he was still in business and I believe he developed that caring even more then, realizing how to listen to people and how important people are to him."

Since selling Harrison H E Jewelry, Hank Harrison has spent the past 10 years delivering Meals on Wheels, a national program that feeds seniors in communities.

"When I retired, it was one of the things I wanted to do," Harrison said. "For one thing, I had time to do it when I got out of the store and helping people is something I enjoy doing."

Harrison is an avid fisherman. He takes his Ranger Z20 bass boat to tackle largemouths to Oklahoma lakes like Tenkiller, Fort Gibson and Eucha. He hooked his biggest bass, a 12-pounder, during a special trip with friends to Lake El Salto in Mexico. Of course, he sometimes included fresh fish in the meals he would take to seniors.

But getting to know those he has helped feed can be one of the more difficult aspects about delivering Meals on Wheels. Two of his "most favorites" have passed away in the past 90 days, Harrison said.

"There was a little ol' gal, every time we cooked fish I would take her some fish and she just loved that," Harrison said. "She passed away without me even knowing it until I read it in the paper."

Loren Dilbeck, whose wife, Shirley Dilbeck, is this year's other Pioneer Citizen, has been close friends with Hank Harrison since they were first-graders in Siloam Springs. From the Badlands and Death Valley to the sites of Custer's Last Stand and Johnny Cash's Arkansas home, they've traveled all over the country together.

Other than Hank's wife, Dilbeck probably knows Harrison as well as anyone. He agreed that Hank is funny, and also humble. That's why Dilbeck joked with his old friend during a phone call on the day he learned about Harrison being named a Pioneer Citizen.

"I called him when I heard he won Pioneer Citizen and said, 'What in the world have you ever done?'" Dilbeck said. "'I guess pioneer means you're old, so should I start calling you Daniel Boone?'

"But he is a really good, solid citizen. He's always been low profile and always willing to help by working on committees and on different projects, but you wouldn't know it.

"You wouldn't get any of that out of him."

Brenda Hall worked at Harrison H E Jewelry for 31 years and said she developed more of a family relationship than a working relationship with the Harrisons. Hall's husband and Hank became close friends as did Brenda Hall and Hank's wife while they also "basically raised each other's family." Hall said the Harrisons have helped dozens of high school students through a scholarship program, but said Hank Harrison's giving went beyond that.

"He was always a huge supporter of anything that boosted Siloam Springs," Hall said. "I remember his generosity in allowing me all the time I needed to volunteer and spend a lot of time in the community without worrying about me being on the time clock. He was always so generous and kind-hearted in supporting our community and so many causes.

"They are such a great family and I feel very honored to have worked for him and Cheryl and get to know them because they are so kind (and) just great, great people."

When asked if they are the angels who "pay it forward" around town from time to time, Cheryl Harrison simply smiled without saying a word. Like her husband, the Harrisons don't give because they want any credit or anything in return.

"We love doing things for people," Cheryl Harrison said. "But not necessarily with them knowing it.

"You get the rewards in other ways."

General News on 01/31/2018

Print Headline: Harrison: An angel among us?

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