Jean Arlen Hester Harris, age 82, passed away on December 7, 2020, of cardiac arrest following a valiant effort to treat lung cancer. She was born on November 6, 1938, in Chula, Georgia to Harvey and Bernice Hester. The middle child of three, Arlen was raised in Turner County, GA, with a sister, Marvelle, and younger brother, Don. After Arlen was grown, her parents adopted her brother’s son, Alton. Her school years were full of club and sports activities with many awards garnered in various competitions including for 4-H and the American Legion. The Hester family lived on a farm and Arlen would often recall childhood memories of picking cotton and peanuts and of cropping tobacco. Later in life, she would often remind her own children that they could certainly unload the dishwasher as that was not near as bad as picking cotton. Her early religious life was fostered through worship at the Inaha Baptist Church.
Arlen graduated from Sycamore High School in 1956 and entered a 2-year college program at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC) in Tifton, GA. Her participation in 4-H continued at ABAC culminating in a trip to Chicago where she won first place in the National 4-H Health Program. The local newspaper reported that “because of Miss Hester’s projects, her community is a healthier place to live.” Completing studies at ABAC, she entered college in Statesboro, GA, at Georgia Teachers College and, in 1960, was in the first graduating class of then renamed Georgia Southern College with a degree in Education. Arlen met her future husband of 58 years, Charles “Charlie” Harris, while both were students at Georgia Southern. Their daughter would later graduate in the last class of Georgia Southern College before it was renamed Georgia Southern University. Arlen’s education continued into her teaching career as she obtained a Master of Education degree in 1973 from Georgia Southwestern College in Americus, GA.
Arlen’s impressive career started with seven years of secretarial experience. She then shared her business knowledge for the next 31 years as an educator and administrator, for a year in Florida and then 30 years in the Marion County, GA, school system. Arlen was on the faculty at Tri-County High School from its inception in 1972 and spent 15 years in the classroom unknowingly teaching countless high school students one of the most important skills to be used in their future – the ability to type. She also taught shorthand and business classes while putting her time and heart into supporting many extracurricular activities including the FBLA and yearbook. She left the classroom and spent the next 15 years as the Tri-County High Vocational Director and Assistant Principal in the last of those years. She was awarded Teacher of the Year in 1998. After her retirement, Arlen was active in the Georgia Retired Educators Association and returned to work part-time for three years with the Marion County Board of Education as the Assistant Superintendent of Schools. She was also involved in the development of a vocational program at the new Chattahoochee County Middle-High School. Her time as a teacher/mentor is remembered gratefully by numerous former students and colleagues.
As important to Arlen as her career was her family. She married Charlie Harris in 1962. Arlen adored Charlie and the life they made eventually settling down in Buena Vista, GA, on Harris family land. They had two children, Charlotte and Richard, who describe their mom as simply, “the best.” After tirelessly supporting her kids through school and into their careers and marriages, she was over-the-moon happy in her role as grandmother, a.k.a. “Gromby,” to three grandsons, Patrick, James, and Drew. Arlen’s love and devotion extended to the rest of the larger Hester and Harris families. Gatherings to celebrate life events or just to enjoy each other’s company were ongoing.
Arlen had many interests and hobbies. She was a devoted and active member of the Buena Vista United Methodist Church. She was an incredible cook - her biscuits and chocolate chip cookies were considered top-notch by anyone blessed to partake. She was physically active, loved to read, was an accomplished seamstress, gardener, and all-around homemaker. In her later years, she decided she wanted to write a book. To that end, she wrote not one but three books about various parts of her life that are now treasures for her family and friends. Not least, she was excited by most activities that meant spending time with her kids, grandkids, or friends, especially, her girlfriends. Over the years, she was a faithful member of women’s Bridge groups and in her later years, participated in trips with women friends so often they named themselves, “The Get-Away Girls.” Arlen had great friends because she was, in every sense of the term, “a great friend.”
Arlen’s 82 years of life came to a close as she faced a lung cancer diagnosis and underwent therapy to treat the tumor. With grit and determination, she endured four months of challenges with incredible grace. Arlen had travelled many times to Texas over the past 24 years to visit her daughter and grandsons; therefore, chose MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for her treatment. Considered a cancer survivor, Arlen pushed through treating the cancer successfully; however, she ultimately succumbed to a weakened body and heart. And while she wanted nothing more than to return home to Buena Vista, Arlen took her last breath in the same Webster, Texas hospital where two of her grandsons took their first. In the difficult time of the COVID pandemic, Charlie remained in Georgia; therefore, Charlotte and Richard were there holding her hands.
In addition to her parents, Bernice and Harvey Hester, Arlen was preceded in death by her brother, Don Hester. Arlen is survived by her husband, Charles F. Harris; daughter, Charlotte Harris Clarke and sons, Patrick and James Clarke; son, Richard (Michelle) Harris and son, Drew; sister, Marvelle (Bill) Donaldson; brother, Alton (Vonda) Hester; brother-in-law, Rex (Kaye) Harris; Nieces and Nephews: Karla McGuire and family; Katelyn Harris and family; Matthew Harris and family, Mitchell Harris and family, Tripp Donaldson and family; Jason Hester and family; and many cousins and their families.
The Harris’ welcome friends and family for a visitation on Saturday, December 12th at the Way-Watson Funeral Home in Buena Vista, GA. A funeral will be held graveside at the Buena Vista City Cemetery on Sunday, December 13th with Rev. Jeremy Alexander and Rev. Jerry Akin officiating. Pallbearers will be Alton Hester, Matthew Harris, Mitchell Harris, Patrick Clarke, James Clarke, and Drew Harris. Due to COVID-19, please follow social distancing guidelines and wear a face covering.
Honorary pallbearers are Roslyn Oliver, Vicki Daniels, and the Get-Away Girls: Gayle Miller, Virginia Dennis, Carol Wells, Carol Murray, Loxi Jones, Juanita Tante, and Linda Moon.
Her memory may be honored with flowers or by donations in her memory to Buena Vista Cemeteries (PO Box 133, Buena Vista, GA 31803) or to Marion REACH Scholarship (1 Eagle Drive, Buena Vista, GA 31803).
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