Sanderson Simpson was seated at his kitchen table reading the Saturday morning paper when the obituary caught his eye:
Hillsboro. Timothy J. Harrison, Sr., 85, of Newton Street died Thursday at home following a courageous six month battle with cancer.
"Tiger" was born on November 18, 1930 in Hillsboro, the son of Peter and Melissa (Turner) Harrison. He attended local schools and was a graduate of Hillsboro High School Class of 1950, where he played football, basketball, and baseball. He served in the United States Navy during the Korean War in the Asiatic Pacific Theater. He obtained the rank of Radioman Second Class.
He was a supervisor at the Hillsboro Plastic Company for nearly forty years before retiring in 1993. He was a communicant of St. Patrick's Church in Hillsboro. He was a Lifetime member of the Local VFW Post.
Tiger enjoyed fishing and baseball. He was an avid sports fan and he played baseball with the Beansboro Beansters of the Serguci League from 1956-1961. He later served on the league's Board of Directors and with The Alumni Committee. He was an avid Celtics, Red Sox, Bruins and Patriots fan.
Besides his beloved wife of 53 years, Carol (Sessions) Harrison, Tiger leaves three children, Dr. Sherri Harrison, Ph.d of Chapel Hill, NC, Timothy Jr. and his wife Jackie of West County, and Jennifer and her husband Louis Dawson of Greenville; four grandsons, Jeremy Dawson and his wife Kim of Miller City, Eddie Dawson and his partner Louise Larson of Hillsboro, Ethan Dawson of Hillsboro and Alan Dawson of Colorado; his 84 year old kid sister, Blanche "Boppie" Holden of White River Junction, VT and several nieces and nephews.
A Liturgy of Christian Burial will be held Monday at 10am at St. Patrick's Church, Main Street, Hillsboro with the Rev. Clark Fitzgerald officiating. Burial will follow at the parish cemetery with full military honors with the United States Navy, assisted by the Mt Griffin VFW Post Honor Guard.
A calling hour will be held Monday morning from 8:30-9:30am at the Donnelly-Nolan Funeral Home in Hillsboro.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Serguci League, P. O. Box 1948, Hillsboro.
Sympathy message available at .com.
Sanderson sat back in his chair and let out a whistle as all sorts of emotions and memories came crashing into his thoughts. So Sherri's Dad had passed away. It had been forty years almost to the day since his own father had died and the news of Tiger's death was a bittersweet remembrance of a time and place so long ago. Sanderson hadn't realized that Tiger was ill but he hadn't seen Sherri since last fall's Hillsboro-Greenville football game on Thanksgiving Day so he was out of the loop.
Sanderson grew up as the Harrison's next door neighbor in a storybook neighborhood of large Victorian houses in Hillsboro. He was good friends with Sherri who was both his age and in his class, but he was also friendly with Tim and Jenny. His kid brother Ron was best friends with Tim and his kid sister Becky was best friends with Jenny so the two families spent a lot of time together growing up.
It was the type of magical experience of innocent happy childhoods that takes place all across America in countless homes and towns - the American Dream of being raised in strong families, attractive houses, and picturesque neighborhoods with friends that made life complete and fulfilling.
Sanderson and Sherri were seniors just a few months away from graduation when Sanderson's father dropped dead in his Camera Shop and Sanderson's life was never the same again. Sherri was off to Wellesley in the Fall and Sanderson had been accepted at nearby Green College. They had their whole lives ahead of them - dreams and goals with unexplored frontiers of new experiences and growth. But Sanderson was called out of fourth period English by the Vice Principal and Sanderson knew by the look on Mr. Clarkson's face that something terrible had happened.
When Sanderson reflected back upon it now, forty years later, he had a hard time remembering specifics of those horrible days. He remembered the numbness and withdrawal he felt from the moment his Uncle Rick met him in the Principal's Office to deliver the unbelievable news. His father was dead. Forty-two years old. It wasn't supposed to happen like that.
Sanderson was well known and popular at Hillsboro High – a good athlete and a likeable guy so the news traveled fast. What he remembered most about that week was how kind, thoughtful, supportive, caring, compassionate and considerate people were toward him and his family. Teachers and classmates were understanding and sympathetic. Coach tried to talk him out of playing the baseball game against Miller City the next day but Sanderson showed up anyway. The neighborhood rallied around Sanderson, his mom and his siblings during their time of unexpected grief and tragedy. There were always people at the house, the refrigerator was full of donated food, and Uncle Rick helped with most of the arrangements.
Sanderson tried to focus on his usual routine – baseball and school – to the point that people thought maybe he was in denial about what happened. He was more like in a state of shock. Nothing seemed real. Nothing seemed true. Nothing felt right. Sanderson loved his father but they were different people. Bob Simpson was not big with Sports which was Sanderson's first love. Bob was the artistic sort – taking photographs and portraits, and a fix-it type guy – amazingly talented when it came to repairing cameras. Sanderson helped out at the shop on weekends and in the summer but he and his Dad didn't otherwise have a lot in common so he was struck by a wave of guilt and remorse when his Dad died, remembering all those lost opportunities when his Dad didn't show up for a game or when he blew his father off at the camera shop or with some family activity because he was too busy being a teenager.
Sanderson's mother was a basket case in the days following her husband's death. She never expected to be a widow with three teenaged children at the age of forty-one. She worked part time as a librarian aide and there was still ten years left on the house mortgage. Sanderson knew he needed to be strong for his mom and for his siblings and he tried to be the rock in those days following the death, even with all the help and support of relatives and neighbors. Several people commented on his strength and demeanor during the difficult time of loss.
Sanderson and Sherri were longtime friends but there was never anything romantic between them beyond the normal teenaged flirting and teasing. There were a few aborted games of strip poker and Spin the Bottle but the two were more like brother and sister, confiding in each other about personal thoughts and concerns, seeking out each other for advice and counsel, and offering each other tips and pointers when one of them was interested in somebody in a romantic way. They spent a lot of time together as friends and part of the neighborhood gang.
Like Sanderson, Sherri was also well liked and popular at school, a member of the band color guard and twirlers, as well as active with the student council. She was 'muscular' and blonde with a round face, sparkling blue eyes, a wide smile, and a friendly laugh.
Sherri was one of the first to appear at the Simpson house following the news of Mr. Simpson's death. She didn't try to placate Sanderson or offer him pointless words of wisdom, philosophy, or her take on death. She was just there, helping out in the kitchen, hanging out with the kids, and offering her friendship for Sanderson. She didn't act any differently than usual and Sanderson appreciated her presence and her patience. It helped knowing she was there for him even though what Sanderson was going through was personal, private, and his pain alone.
The grief, sadness and mourning were almost too much for Sanderson. That's what he remembered most about those fateful few days. How miserable it was to have to endure the pain of loss, the sudden finality of death, and the empty feeling of being left behind. Somehow, Sanderson and his family managed to get through the calling hours at the Donnelly-Nolan Funeral Home where the endless procession of mourners paid their respects to the family who stood like cardboard cutouts in the line by the casket greeting people and thanking them for coming. Who came was a blur to Sanderson who, like the rest of the family, was on autopilot just trying to get through the ordeal.
Sherri brought cups of water to Sanderson, his mom and siblings as they stood in the reception line. She engaged people in conversation to spare the Simpsons from having to continue talking to people for the sake of talking. It was nice to have her there that night and the following morning when they had to do it all over again – the quick service at the funeral home, followed by the funeral procession to the church for the Mass and then the burial.
By the time family and friends returned to the Simpson house after the burial, Sanderson was devoid of feelings. His emotions had been sucked out of his soul and he was no longer capable of even pretending to care about anything. He sat in the living room half-comatose, tired of faking the tough act and sick of all the people constantly in his face, wanting to talk, hoping to share stories and memories, constantly asking him how he was feeling.
"How the fuck do you think I'm feeling?" He wanted to scream.
Sherri picked up on Sanderson's crumbling fortress of shredded emotions and she rescued him by taking him by the hand and pulling him out of his seat.
"Let's get out of here for a little while," she suggested.
Sanderson wasn't going to protest and he willingly (if not dazedly) followed Sherri out of the overcrowded noisy living room.