Sheryl Lezada Harris, MD
Apr 26, 1956 – Dec 27, 2014
Sheryl Harris was born on April 26, 1956 to Cecil and Lezada Harris. Sheryl was an only child as was her mother and grandmother before her. Her parents were school teachers who loved to teach Sheryl and Sheryl always thirsted to learn. At 3 or 4 she asked her mother to teach her to play the organ. Her mother was an outstanding organist and Sheryl wanted to learn—and she did while her mother did the footwork on the petals.
Sheryl grew up in Port Arthur, Texas in a typical neighborhood called Vista Village. It was the time of the baby boomers so Sheryl had many other children to hang out with. Her best friend, Kim Gallien would come knocking at the door every day asking for Sheryl to come out and play. There were so many children in Vista Village that they had a baseball team! Sheryl and a group of other kids formed a musical band and played endless hours in a neighborhood garage.
As the late 60’s came civil rights for African Americans were so important to Sheryl. You see she remembers having to wait in the “colored” waiting room of doctors’ offices and could only drink from “colored” water fountains.
Sheryl went to Bishop Byrne High School and loved almost every minute of it. She made many friends there and kept in touch over the years. At the high school graduation she and her friend Pam performed “Memories.”
Sheryl went to the University of Texas in Austin and graduated with a degree in Physics. She likely was the first or second African American to graduate from UT with a degree in Physics. You see there were only 2000 African Americans admitted to UT in 1974 with an undergraduate student body of 40,000. She chose Physics although she wanted to become a doctor even in 1974. When she learned at 18 how much was involved in becoming a doc she opted for majoring in Physics!
After graduating from UT Sheryl thought she was done with school so she moved to Washington, DC to find work in the government. Not knowing the process, she permed her hair, put on a dress and went door to door at various federal buildings. Finally someone took pity on her and explained the process to work in the federal government. Eventually Sheryl got a job with NAVSEA and then the US Geological Society. But school was calling her heart again and went and got a Masters Degree in Biology from American University. Sheryl spent several years on boats going up and down the Potomac River into the Chesapeake Bay testing water quality with her colleagues.
As Sheryl was growing as a person to be true to herself and applied for work at a newly formed political action committee (PAC), the Human Rights Campaign Fund. She helped with bookkeeping and IT. At first HRCF was just a 3-4 staff office on Capitol Hill. Sheryl was at the foundation of building the PAC, which today is a critical PAC for assuring the rights of the LGBT community.
At age 35 Sheryl could no longer stop the drive to become a doctor. She studied for the MedCap, brushed up on her Chemistry and was admitted to various med schools. She chose Howard University and again loved every minute of her medical school education. After graduating from medical school she heard of Group Health Cooperative and loved the concept so she came to Seattle to do a residency with Group Health. Following her residency, Sheryl practiced at Group Health as a Family doc at the Burien and Northshore clinics. She also did Urgent Care at Everett and locums around the Group Health Network.
Of course being a doc was not enough for Sheryl. She decided to go back to school and so she did, obtaining a Master’s Degree in Public Health at Johns Hopkins. She loved every minute of it.
The last several years of Sheryl’s life were quite challenging due to her chronic illness of lung disease. This, however, did not stop her from continuing to grow and delight in the ordinary and extraordinary in life. A week before Sheryl died she was looking into online courses in Analytics.
Sheryl was a remarkable, generous, brilliant, loving human being that will be missed by so many. She is survived by her family--dearest friend of 40 years, Joan Eads, and Joan’s sister, Linda Eads, Sheryl’s goddaughter Madelyn Eads-Dorsey, her cat PJ and her dog Bailey. Sheryl had many dear and beloved friends: Marge and James Gamble, Debi Mediano, Calista Martinez, Rodney Price, Mandy & Geoff Cooper, Ann Gelgisser, Terry Hill, Arlene Dorrough, David O’Connor, Nancy Scott, Clarissa McDearmon, as well as great friends at Group Health and L’Arche Noah Sealth.
There will be a celebration of life for Sheryl and memorial service on February 7th at 2:00 pm at Lake Forest Park Civic Club: 17301 Beach Drive (crossroads of Ballinger Way and Bothell/Everett Highway), Lake Forest Park, 98155, 206-362-8818. At the celebration we will share stories and delight in the remarkable life of Sheryl Harris.
If you want to make a gift in honor of Sheryl instead of flowers, consider the following organizations:
L’Arche Noah Sealth in Seattle—Sheryl served as a board member with this organization and enjoyed many hours with core members and assistants.
Eastside Timebank in Kirkland—Sheryl was a member and believed in resource sharing and community building in this way.
Howard University in Washington, DC
Human Rights Campaign in Washington, DC
Group Health Hospice Care, Seattle, WA
Meals on Wheels, Snohomish or King County
This obituary is provided by Bonney-Watson, providing caring and compassionate funeral, cremation and cemetery services since 1868. We have a professional staff, four funeral homes, two cremation facilities and one of the largest cemeteries south of Seattle, as well as a comprehensive grief support program.