John (Pete) Harris

Born in Jefferson, Greene County, November 30, 1933, son of Orville William Harris and Jessie Heloise Smart, step son of Vera Bucknell Thompson Harris, Decorah.

He was a graduate of Jefferson High School, the 1952 JHS class were very special to him, and the University of Iowa, earning a B.A. degree in Political Science.

He was with Life Investors of Iowa; Investors Life Insurance and Laurance Press Co in Cedar Rapids from 1961 until 1969. He was also active in the Junior Chamber of Commerce, serving on the Board of Directors from 1965 to 1967. He was named Salesman of the Year by the National Sales Executive Club in 1962.

An active member of the Brotherhood of St. Andrews he served as chapter director at St. Michaels, Cedar Rapids (now Christ Episcopal) and then as president of the state assembly. He also served   St. Michaels as a church school teacher and Sunday School superintendent, serving 3 years on the Vestry and as Junior and Senior Warden.   

In 1966 he was named outstanding young religious lay leader of Cedar Rapids and received the Distinguished Cross Award at St. Michaels in 1968.

In July, 1969 he was named Director of Administration for the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa.  He faithfully served the Diocese for 26 years as Administrator and Consultant to Bishops Gordon V Smith, Walter C. Righter and C. Christopher Epting, retiring in 1995.

He was an Honored Hospice volunteer in November, 2008 completing more then 1300 hours to Mercy Hospice, Johnston. “Pete’s wry sense of humor, his fidelity to any type of work he was asked to do, not to mention his devotion to Drake athletics (he was also a Hawkeye fan), and his charming ability to spin a yarn have endeared Pete to all of the Mercy staff.”

One day George Holloway walked into the Episcopal Diocese offices to talk about starting a rescue mission.  Pete worked with George to secure funding and the Door of Faith became reality. From that relationship with George Holloway and Petes’ first Christmas at the new Door of Faith, seeing the importance of having a wrapped gift to open, in 1975 Pete started the Mission Christmas project which grew and grew lasting until 2007, 33 years. Generous donations were packed into red and white Santa Claus bags; 100 dozen homemade Christmas cookies were donated by the congregations of St. Andrew’s and St. Lukes Episcopal churches and many friends across the Diocese.  Funds were raised thanks to a generous group of donors who supported the program for its lifetime. Thanks to St. Thomas’, Algona for the years of homemade shaving kit bags. Thanks to Walgreens for their help year after year and to his children who walked round and round the conference room table at Mills House until the project grew too big and was moved to St. Andrews.

He served for 6 years as Secretary/Treasurer for the Standing Commission on World Mission and on the National Board of Deployment Officers.

In 1993 Pete took a class in clowning through the January Thaw program and created “Humbly and Mercy”, his clown persona.  

Married to Margaret “Peggy” Stilwell April 4, 1959 at Trinity Episcopal in Iowa City.

They have 3 children Robert, James (Terri) and Kathy (Gary); 6 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren. He is also survived by an awesome group of Harris nieces and nephews.

He loved people, fishing, collecting caps and his Lord.

Evening Prayer and Sharing will be at 7:00 p.m. on August 29, at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 3120 E. 24th St. Des Moines. The Rite of Christian Burial will be at 1:00 p.m. on August 30, at St. Mark’s.

In lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be made to St. Mark’s Episcopal Church (Des Moines), or Central Iowa Shelter and Services in Des Moines.

What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8).

Online condolences can be sent to the family at

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Jefferson Bee & Herald
Address: 200 N. Wilson St.
Jefferson, IA 50129

Phone:(515) 386-4161