Marvin Harris

Marvin L. “Jim” Harris left this earth on June 21, 2009, to hike the hills of heaven. A lifelong Skagit Valley resident, Jim was born Oct. 2, 1937, in Sedro-Woolley, Washington. He was the third child born to Alvin B. Harris and Sarah M. (Eggleston) Harris.

Jim spent most of his youth across the Skagit River from Rockport. He attended the two-room Rockport School. When he was a teen, his family moved to “town” (Concrete), where he played football and basketball, and played trombone in the concert and festival bands at Concrete High School. He was Senior Class President of the Class of 1955.

After some time logging, Jim enrolled at Washington State University and participated in the ROTC. He then transferred to Western Washington College (University) and graduated with a BA in Industrial Arts and Biology. He returned for additional time to complete his teaching certificate. His first assignment was head teacher of a two-room school in Marblemount.

Jim moved to the Upper Skagit with his new wife, Joyce E. (Northup) Harris in 1961. The Harrises welcomed their daughter Valerie in 1962 and son Dan in 1963. In 1969, they adopted two-year-old daughter Regina. During this time, Jim also taught in Newhalem and Concrete, as well as working as a seasonal employee for the U.S. Forest Service.

Jim left teaching and joined the U.S. National Park Service when they opened the North Cascades National Park. He returned to school and received an AA in Skagit Valley College’s Forest Ranger Program. This launched a career for which “Ranger Jim” was well known. While he served many roles within the North Cascades National Park, he was best known for his wonderful fireside programs and his extensive research and local knowledge of the peoples and history of the Upper Skagit. Although he retired in 1999, much evidence of his work as a naturalist and interpretive specialist throughout the park and Upper Skagit remains today.

Jim helped raise three stepchildren with his second wife, Ellen Hand. He became a grandfather in 1983. He enjoyed a total of eight grandchildren and one great-grandson, as well as the five grandchildren of his longtime life partner, Sally Grant of Bellingham.

Beside his children and grandchildren, his brother, Dick Harris, of Bellingham; and a cousin, Sally Anne, who was raised by their family; and numerous other relatives, survive Jim. His parents; his sister, Loretta; and two infant brothers preceded him in death.

Jim’s love for the mountains and the valley were pervasive throughout his life and evident in everything he did. He was a hiker, published author, poet, storyteller, speaker, educator, “bear wrangler,” logger, farmer, carpenter, and local school supporter. His retirement years were filled with doing what he loved: hiking, biking, and traveling with Sally, and even a few new skills like dancing!

Jim will be missed by so many, but his stories will live on, as will his infectious love of the Skagit Valley and the North Cascades. Friends and family are invited to gather to celebrate his life by the social hall and log cabin at Howard Miller Steelhead Park, Rockport, Washington, on Sunday, Aug. 16, at 2:00 p.m. Stories to share are welcome.

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