Friends and family celebrate Heather Harris' life

June 18, 2011|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI |
  • Sean Pettner, left, and his sister Brandi Pettner, friends of Heather Harris, work on a memorial board of photos of Harris for Saturday's memorial service at the UAW Local 171 Hall in Maugansville.
By Chris Tilley/Staff Photographer

"Little girls grow up to be mother's best friend," Brenda Cole said.

That's the way it was for Cole and her daughter Heather Harris, a Hagerstown woman who died Wednesday, five days after she was shot in her Dual Highway home.

"Heather was very fun to be around. She was 'Go, go, go!' Very excited about life," Cole said. "She loved shopping, loved clothes. She's got enough clothes for about 50 women, and I'm serious. And shoes! She must have 100 pairs of flip-flops, and it's nice because we wear the same size."

The two had moved from Frederick, Md., to their new residence just three months ago, Cole said, for nicer housing at a lower cost.

"We were still moving into the house, still unpacking," she said.

Harris, 37, was shot twice in the head on June 10, according to a charging document at the Washington County Sheriff's Office filed against her ex-boyfriend Randy Houston McPeak, 43, of Berkeley Springs, W.Va.

Friends and family celebrated Harris' life Saturday at a memorial service at UAW Local 171 in Maugansville.

Tablecloths and flowers in purple, Harris' favorite color, decorated the hall. Guests pinned purple ribbons to their shirts.

Harris was born in Florida and moved to Frederick when she was 13. Her uncle, Gary McBride, 65, of Pittsville, Md., remembered her as a "skinny, high-speed child" who liked to keep up with her brother, Heath Bates, who is a year and a half her senior.

"They were heathens," Cole joked. "Real active. I was a single parent jerking knots with their tails."

Harris' ashes were contained in a lavender-hued urn among a display of photos, cards and bouquets. Harris enjoyed recreation on the Potomac River, Cole said. The family plans to scatter some of her ashes there, and to memorialize the remainder in cremation jewelry.

"Heather liked to go camping, fishing, kayaking and canoeing," Cole said. "Fishing and more fishing."

Jason Myers of Hancock dated Harris several years ago. Myers recalled a fishing trip the two had taken on Lake Erie.

"I am a die-hard bass fisherman. There were about 10 of us out there," Myers said, "and I'll be danged if (Harris) didn't put the first fish in the boat. It was about 4 pounds."

Harris had been dating Sean Pettner, 29, of Hagerstown, since early May. The two "just clicked" and had spent every day together, Pettner said. He was attracted to her smile and her "one-of-a-kind" laugh. As a father of three, Pettner admired the way Harris interacted with and cared for his children.

"She had a passion for kids and was excellent with them," he said. "She was a hairdresser, and was into doing nails, and my girls fell for her right away."

Pettner last saw Harris alive on the morning of June 10, just hours before she was shot.

"She said, 'I love you and I'll see you and the kids tonight,'" Pettner said. "I was at work when I heard what happened. My heart dropped to the ground. I fell to pieces."

Kim Sauro, Harris' supervisor at SportsClips in Frederick, Md., said Harris was "a great employee." Younger workers looked up to Harris for her warmth and friendliness. They said she always looked "put together," and they called her "the retail queen."

Jessica McFadden, 24, met Harris after she had moved to Frederick from California.

"When Harris found out I didn't really know anyone, she came up to me and was like, 'I'm your friend!'" McFadden said.

A group of co-workers said they had been planning a housewarming party for Harris this summer.

Pastor Bill McPherson, police chaplain with the Washington County Sheriff's Office, spoke at the early-afternoon service. About 75 friends and family were present. Others continued to stop by throughout the day and into the evening.

Guests released balloons containing Harris' memorial cards into the air later in the day. During the evening, they planned to light candles in her memory.

On Thursday, Cole will remember Harris' birthday as she undergoes surgery for treatment of breast cancer. She received the diagnosis just a couple of weeks before Harris was shot, she said.

Donations to help the family pay for Harris' medical and funeral expenses incurred as a result of the shooting can be made to or be deposited with PNC Bank, according to the family.

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