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Dolores Harrison (1933-2019)

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A community mentor and devoted curator of the Carter House Museum, one of Bermuda's oldest homes and an historical treasure of St David's, has died at 86.

Dolores Harrison loved showcasing the historic 17th-century house and museum of the St David's Island Historical Society.

Ms Harrison's family also enjoyed close ties with Chicago and the classic American music show Soul Train, which aired from 1971 to 2006, and was created and hosted for its first 22 years by the producer Don Cornelius.

Rick Spurling, head of the historical society, said Ms Harrison succeeded Eloise Millett, first curator when the renovated Carter House opened in 2001.

He said: “She loved taking people around and talking about her experiences living in St David's. She was one of our greatest supporters.”

Ms Harrison turned her 80th birthday at Carter House into a museum fundraiser — as well as a fashion show, with models showcasing her own collection.

Mr Spurling recalled: “She had an extraordinary wardrobe and was always impeccably dressed. She was also one of the nicest people I ever knew.”

Kim Durham, one of Ms Harrison's two daughters, explained: “Don Cornelius is my uncle on my father's side, and it started in my grandmother's house in the basement, when everyone would go downstairs and dance after Sunday dinner. We loved Soul Train and mom loved it too.”

Donna Boddington, her other daughter, said their mother's love of that musical era included keeping an eight-track player with tapes.

Ms Harrison had met her husband, Richard, in Chicago when she moved there to study nursing.

Part of her training required sitting in on an autopsy.

According to her daughters, Ms Harrison fainted watching the procedure — and decided to become a nurse's aide instead.

She worked at Chicago's Evanston Hospital until the family returned to Bermuda 50 years ago.

Sociable and work-driven, Ms Harrison's jobs included the officer's club on the United States Naval Air Station at the East End, and the Black Horse Tavern in St David's, where lobster became her speciality dish.

Ms Durham said: “She enjoyed working there, liked people and loved tourists. She was a busy person and worked two jobs for 30 years, at the Silent Waters nursing home and the Piggly Wiggly supermarket in Shelly Bay, which became the MarketPlace.”

Ms Boddington added: “She mentored hundreds of young men and women who worked at the supermarket. Later, they would come up to us to talk no matter where we used to go.”

Ms Harrison's service to others included accompanying patients for treatment overseas when they had no loved ones to travel with them.

The sister to the Right Reverend Vernon Lambe, Bishop of the First Church of God in Pembroke, she worshipped at the Chapel of Ease in St David's.

She attended St Luke's African Methodist Episcopal Church in her later years, and St John's AME.

She belonged to an informal seniors' group, the Joy Luck Club, and loved dining at the Speciality Inn in Smith's to socialise.

Keen to stay active, Ms Harrison started at Carter House upon her retirement.

Ms Durham said her mother “loved St David's and knew all the history”.

Carter House takes its name from Christopher Carter, one of the island's first permanent settlers who arrived in 1609 aboard the Sea Venture.

It was likely built around 1640 and, during and after the Second World War, ended up on the US Base.

Lynn Mello, the present curator, said Ms Harrison had showed her how to look after the museum, adding: “She was wonderful; she did a great job of it.”

Ronnie Chameau, a member of the historical society who put extensive work into Carter House and its displays, called her “unique”.

“She kept the place immaculate,” Ms Chameau said. “Coming up as a young girl, I admired this lady who was always so well dressed.

“Once she started at Carter House, it was everything for her. She was a gem.”

A gem: Dolores Harrison on the steps of Carter House (Photograph supplied)
Family outing: Dolores Harrison with daughters Donna Boddington, left, and Kim Durham, at her 80th birthday celebration at Carter House in St David's (Photograph supplied)

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Published September 26, 2019 at 9:00 am (Updated September 26, 2019 at 8:59 am)

Dolores Harrison (1933-2019)

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