As he grew up in Santa Rosa, excelling in sports and music, eating like fitness guru Jack LaLanne and aspiring to become a medical doctor, Homer Harris Jr. became accustomed to people responding to his name by saying, “Oh, I know your dad!”
When World War II veteran Homer Harris Sr. brought his family to Santa Rosa in 1953, few other African-American families lived here.
The elder Harris became beloved as a Methodist preacher, custodian, jail counselor, Sunday morning radio DJ of spiritual music and part-time shoeshine man.
His son, born in 1947 and widely known as Buddy, knew early on he would be a physician.
After graduating from Santa Rosa High School in 1965, Homer Harris Jr. went on to Santa Rosa Junior College, then to Cal State Sacramento, then to Nashville’s Meharry Medical College.
Said his proud mother, Beatrice Harris, well-known in Santa Rosa for her long career as a preschool administrator and teacher, “We were as poor as Job’s turkey, but Homer made it through.”
Her son became a family doctor and launched a career that took him to Illinois, where he worked first at hospitals and then at two prisons. He returned for a time to the Bay Area then moved to the Central Valley, opening a private practice in the Merced County town of Dos Palos in 2005.
Harris was a confirmed bachelor until his marriage earlier this year to Mary Clements of Turlock.
She was with him when he died Nov. 6 of complications of prostate cancer. He was 70.
Just as he was known for much of his life as the Rev. Homer Harris’ son, Wanda Harris says she grew up being recognized mostly as Buddy Harris’ sister.
She said that as a boy and young man her brother was an “A” student, a pioneer of health foods, a saxophone player and drill team drillmaster, a mid-’60s Boys Club “Boy of the Year” and a fierce competitor with the Neptune Swim Team.
“He swam like a fish,” Wanda Harris said.
Buddy Harris played football throughout high school and his undergraduate years. In 1990, he became a student of taekwondo, mastering the martial art and becoming a teacher.
Harris had practiced medicine for a quarter-century when he opened his private practice in Dos Palos 12 years ago.
Though he had not lived in Sonoma County for years, Harris remained active in the Santa Rosa High School Foundation. In addition to taekwondo, he enjoyed, in his free time, spending time with his family and his many pets.
He is survived by his wife, Mary Clements-Harris, in Turlock, and by his mother and his sister in Santa Rosa.
Services will be at 11:30 a.m. Sunday at Willow Glen Funeral Home in San Jose.