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Elmore (Cootie)'s Story

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Legendary jazz musician, Elmore (Cootie) Harris of Meadville passed away at 2:30 a.m. on January 6, 2018. His long- time friend and companion, Jeanne, and his great-niece, Michell, were holding his hands at the time of death.
Born February 23, 1923, in Franklin, he was the son of the late Elmore and Mary (Kaigler) Harris. He was one of fourteen children.
He was a graduate of Franklin High School and attended the Manhattan School of Music. While there, he studied with three top percussionists, including Billy Dorn of the NBC Orchestra. After receiving formal training, he played in jazz clubs in New York, Newark, France, Germany and Scotland. He played with jazz legends, Billie Holiday and Dizzy Gillespie.
He honorably served in WWII and fought at Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. He was commissioned as an officer at a time when the armed forces were segregated and served as a German and French interpreter. He was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion. He was retired from Polk Center having been employed as an Institutional Music Therapist.
The Cootie Harris Band was well-known throughout the tri-state area. On January 14, 1967, his quintet provided dance music at Gov. Raymond P. Shafer's inauguration in Harrisburg. He taught hundreds of percussion students and inspired many local musicians who went on to choose music as their careers. In 1975 he founded the Cootie Harris School of Tai Chi. His schools of Kung Fu and Tai Chi were in Franklin and Meadville. He also started the Cootie Harris Jazz Jams at the Meadville Council of the Arts to inspire and work with young musicians. The Jazz Jams continue to this day.
Mr. Harris participated in many stage productions and starred in "Driving Miss Daisy". He was a long-time volunteer in service to others serving on the Governing Board and the Health Advisory Board of Active Aging and on the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board. He was chosen to carry the Olympic Torch on January 1, 2002. Mr. Harris received the President's Martin Luther King Jr. Award from Edinboro University on January 31, 2005. He was also a recipient of the Governor Raymond P. Schafer Award for distinguished community service. He was chosen as one of the honorees to receive the Wesbury Senior Tribute Award on October 9, 2014.
Mr. Harris was a member of the New Life Family Worship Center (formerly the Erie Street Church of God) in Franklin, PA. He is survived by two sisters, Pearl Harris and Bernadeen Holmes; and many nieces, nephews and cousins. He was preceded in death by his parents; his beloved son, Gregory Bryan Harris; his brothers, Joseph, Hezekiah, James, Robert and Richard Harris; and sisters, Clara Henderson, Callie Collins, Rosemary Moses, Margaret Harris, Marion Tanner, and Lucille Harris.
Family and friends will be received at the Gardinier Funeral Home, Inc. at 1315 Chestnut Street, Franklin, on Friday, January 12th from 3:00 - 7:00 p.m. Funeral Services for Mr. Harris will be held at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 13th at the 1st Baptist Church in Franklin, with Rev. Randy Powell, Pastor of the church, officiating. Military services will be provided by the local V.E.T.S. Honor Guard. Interment will be in Franklin Cemetery.
The family has asked that memorial contributions be made in Mr. Harris's name to the charity of one's choice.
Family and friends are invited to visit www.gardinierfuneralhome.com to send cards, flowers or online condolences.
Published on January 9, 2018
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