By Ms. Rikeshia Davidson (AMC)March 30, 2011
ROCK ISLAND, Ill. -- "Waiting and watching, looking above...Lost in His love...Praising my Savior, all the daylong" are the words of "Blessed Assurance," one of two songs sang to Shelby Harris.
Harris quietly reflected for a moment saying, "The Lord is my shepherd".
On March 26, 2011 family, friends, church members, local leadership and well-wishers gathered to celebrate Harris'110th birthday and the Joint Munitions Command also honored the veteran for his service.
Actually born on March 31, the longtime Rock Island, Ill., resident and World War II veteran arrived wearing a crown. And king for the day he was.
The day began with songs from the Second Baptist Church (Rock Island) male choir, the church where Harris actively served as deacon until the age of 102.
Visibly moved, when asked if he wanted to have a word, Harris said, "What could I say'"
"I would like to say something but I just can't get it out." But at the end of it all, he said, "It's the most wonderful day of my life and I want to thank everyone for coming."
Quite humble for a man who held the keys to the city of Rock Island and holds a proclamation granting him his very own day.
Col. Arnold P. Montgomery, chief of staff, JMC, presented Harris a certificate of appreciation, 75 mm artillery shell and JMC coin. (The 75 mm artillery shell represented the type of ammunition used during World War II; and interestingly enough, the 75 mm would have been produced at Kingsbury Ordnance Plant in LaPorte, Ind., some five and a half hours north of Harris' hometown.)
On behalf of JMC, Montgomery expressed thanks to Harris.
"We appreciate your tireless efforts in support of our U.S. Armed Forces. Your dedication to our country and its military is commendable and an honorable addition to the fight for freedom throughout the world. Your legacy of service inspires today while adding to the history of this great nation. A history steeped in service, love of one's country and the tireless fight for the very freedoms we enjoy today. "
And for this day, Harris was surrounded by relatives from his home state of Indiana.
He was joined by two grandchildren: Al (Cynthia) and Beverly; two great-grandchildren: Sasha and Stacy (Emily); as well as at least two great-great-grandchildren, Marquice and Jade. The Harris family also includes eight great-grandchildren and at least six great-great-great grandchildren.
Harris is a native of Ayrshire, Ind., and according to family, he was a coal miner.
After relocating to Illinois, he made the Quad Cities his home. Employed with Union Malleable (now John Deere), it was there that Harris left his employment in September 1942 for World War II. He recalls being in the Army, serving for no more than a year.
Resuming life in the Quad Cities after the war, he was active in his church well past the age of 100 and worked at another Quad Cities staple: The Dutch Inn. Harris' active life was most recently recounted in The Rock Island Argus and The (Moline) Dispatch as he cast his ballot in the 2008 Presidential Election at the age of 107.