Memorial - Curtis Harrison

Curtis Harrison

UPDATED with the biography from the funeral program - 6/17/2008 12:45pm

Students who attended Sunset before 2002 have probably heard Curtis say, “When are you coming to school? How many kids do you have, and do you need a place to live?” Even on crutches Curtis could out walk any of us. He could out talk any of us and he would tell amazing stories at the drop of a hat. Curtis on his motorized cart was dangerous to a lot of us. He could slip up on you.

Curtis and LaMoine went to Papua, New Guinea in 1972 with their family to serve as missionaries. They continued their work there until 1978 when Curtis was paralyzed following a spinal cord tumor. After surgery and a year of intense physical therapy, he returned to Papua, New Guinea in 1979 to continue his work for another six years. They returned to the States in 1985, and Curtis began his work at Sunset. He served in the Sunset ministry for 17 years.

Curtis served as the student coordinator while working at Sunset. He helped students find housing; get their kids enrolled in school and anything else that was needed to help them settle into life in Lubbock. He tracked alumni for years and kept the school in contact with them. We definitely felt the loss when Curtis had to retire due to heath problems.

You can’t say “Curtis” without automatically saying “Curtis and LaMoine.” LaMoine has been the utmost example of a godly wife and mother. For 35 years she has taken care of Curtis. We have seen their struggle, but we have seen their faith even more. We have seen their tears of sorrow, but we have seen their tears of joy when students graduate and begin their work in the Kingdom.

Letters, cards, and phone calls are encouraging and appreciated. LaMoine continues to work in the office at Sunset and can be reached there. Their address is 4201 41st St, Lubbock, 79413. LaMoine can be reached in the office at 806-792-5191.

Curtis Eldon Harrison was born in Idalou, Texas, on Oct. 6, 1936. Curtis gave his life to Jesus Christ in baptism at the age of sixteen after his brother E.T. invited him to a gospel meeting. He married his best friend and love of his life, LaMoine Rappe, on July 12, 1957, in a sunrise wedding ceremony in Lubbock. LaMoine was fifteen at the time. Within a year, the couple had their first child, Cindy. Three others, LaDell, LaNell, and LaCresha, soon followed.

Curtis had a number of different jobs as a young adult. He sold vacuum cleaners for a while, and was such a good salesman that he once sold a vacuum cleaner to a woman with no electricity. Of course, he didn’t know that, and when he learned the facts, he offered to take it back. She wouldn’t hear of it. She intended to have electricity one day and when she did, she’d be ready. His ability to sell what he believed in would come in handy in ways he would never have guessed at the time. But he never made much money selling vacuum cleaners, and he had a wife and four children to support.

He eventually came across an opportunity to be a state meat inspector, which would improve the family’s financial situation significantly. Curtis secured an interview, and while Curtis was at the interview, the family gathered to pray. Curtis had vowed to the Lord that if he got the job, that within a year he would quit the job to go to Sunset School of Preaching (now Sunset International Bible Institute) in Lubbock. Curtis got the job, and much to the dismay of both his parents and LaMoine’s parents, he quit that job within a year to attend Sunset.

Curtis went through the Sunset School of Preaching from 1970-1972, and during that time, heard God calling him and his family to the island nation of Papua, New Guinea, to serve as missionaries. In December of 1972 Curtis, LaMoine, and their four children, ranging in age from 7-14, moved courageously to New Guinea and served in the towns of Goroka and Port Moresby. New Guinea couldn’t have been more different than their life in Texas. It was quite a sight to see a 6’4”, 300-lb. Texan standing next to the small-framed New Guineans. But the New Guinea people loved the Harrison family. They all knew that Curtis cared about them and many even called him “Dad.” Curtis’ ministry philosophy was, “If you want to teach someone the Bible and convert them, you have to make them a friend first.” And Curtis was good at making friends. His goal was always to develop a native church that could continue to grow even without the missionaries. Because of Curtis’ love for the people of New Guinea, many are still Christians today and continue his pattern of evangelism and service to others. One example is Jab Mesa, one of Curtis’ early converts from his work at the local Teacher’s College. Jab is now the director of the Melanesian Bible College in Lae.

The family all served in New Guinea fruitfully until tragedy struck. In 1978, at the age of 41, Curtis was stricken with a spinal cord tumor that left him completely paralyzed. Curtis was in a store in Goroka when he dropped a bottle of Coke he was holding in his hand. He noticed that he had no feeling in his fingers. He went to the local doctor who told him to get back quickly to the U.S., because the numbness was spreading, and in their opinion, he’d soon be paralyzed. The Harrisons quickly packed up their belongings and got a flight back to the states. Within one week of that initial diagnosis Curtis was completely paralyzed in a hospital in Lubbock. Scans showed a tumor wrapped around his spinal cord at the base of his neck. Only one doctor was even willing to attempt treatment. An operation was performed, and some of the tumor was removed. The rest of the tumor was killed with radiation.

The doctors told him he’d never walk again, but Curtis had a different plan. For nearly a full year Curtis was completely paralyzed. Without insurance churches, families, and friends donated money for his care. God again took care of his people. Against all odds he amazed his doctors by learning to crawl and then by learning to walk with forearm crutches. Throughout rehab in Amarillo, he kept mentioning his desire to re-learn to climb stairs. A strange goal for someone from Texas where most homes are one-story ranch houses, but Curtis’ desire to climb stairs had nothing to with life in Texas. To get off the plane in New Guinea, Curtis would have to use stairs. Curtis intended to return to New Guinea, and in 1979 he did return and served effectively for another seven years when his health finally demanded a returned to the states. Through his work, thousands of people were influenced with the gospel. His heart was always in New Guinea, and his family unanimously believes that if Curtis’ health hadn’t become an issue, he would have stayed the rest of his life in New Guinea where his heart was.

Even after returning to the states, Curtis continued to serve the Lord. He was asked to serve as student coordinator at Sunset International Bible Institute where he was a mentor and surrogate father and grandfather to hundreds of SIBI students and their families. He continued to talk about his Lord with anyone who would listen. He served in that capacity until about five years ago, when a series of seizures following surgery left him mostly bedfast and unable to communicate. However, until recently, his family could always get a smile out of him.

Throughout the last thirty years, his loving wife LaMoine has been constantly by his side, caring for him heroically and without a single word of complaint. She has been the very definition of love.

His family remembers Curtis best as a loving husband, father and grandfather. He loved his family and was never more proud than when everyone was gathered in his home. He loved playing games and was a fierce opponent in Canasta. He especially loved kids, and after he got his scooter, he would often be seen around the church with kids riding in his lap. Curtis was a determined man who was intensely passionate about helping people go to heaven. Every single one of Curtis’ children, grandchildren, and their spouses are faithful Christians. Curtis has left a legacy of love and faithfulness to God that will live on for generations.
If Curtis could talk to us today, he’d tell us to love the Lord, no matter what challenges you face in life. He’d tell us to never give up and that the reward of heaven is far greater than we can ever imagine. And he’d tell us that it is now up to his kids, grandkids, family, and all of you to keep alive his legacy of love and sharing the gospel.

Because the propagation of the gospel was so important to Curtis and his family, they ask that any memorials be sent to the Sunset International Bible Institute in Lubbock, Texas (3723 34th St., Lubbock, TX 79410).

Lubbock Avalanche-Journal -

Monday, June 16, 2008
Story last updated at 6/16/2008 - 1:52 am

Services for Curtis Harrison, 71, of Lubbock, will be 2 p.m. Tuesday in Sunset Church of Christ with Truitt Adair officiating.

The family will receive friends to reminisce his legacy from 6-8 p.m. tonight at Lake Ridge Chapel and Memorial Designers.

Burial will be in Resthaven Memorial Park under the direction of Lake Ridge Chapel.

Mr. Harrison died Saturday evening in his residence after a lengthy illness.

He was born in Idalou on Oct. 6, 1936. He married LaMoine Rappe on July 12, 1957, in a sunrise wedding in Lubbock.

Curtis went through the Sunset School of Preaching from 1970-1972, and heard God calling him and his family to Papua New Guinea to work as missionaries. In 1978, at the age of 41, he was stricken with a spinal cord tumor that caused him to be completely paralyzed. Against all odds, he amazed his doctors in rehab, by learning how to walk with crutches and returned to Papua New Guinea for another seven years. After returning to Lubbock, he worked with Sunset School of Preaching as a student coordinator. His heart was always in Papua New Guinea but could not go back because of his health challenges. Through his work thousands of people were influenced with the gospel.

Survivors include three daughters, Cindy Wilkinson of San Diego, LaNell Harrison of Lubbock, LaCresha Longwell of Somerset, Pa.; and one good looking son, LaDell Harrison of Keller; seven grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter and his best friend of 50 years and care giver for over 30 years, his wife, LaMoine.

The family suggests memorials to Sunset International Bible Institute.

You're invited to visit to view Curtis Harrison's life tribute or to share fond memories or condolences with the family.