For many years, my uncle Harrison Collett was the superintendent at Cherokee County Water and Sewerage Authority. Before that, he worked for Wallace Chambers Plumbing and Heating.
You see, the Chambers family has been doing business in Canton for years and still does through the Chamberhouse. And Harrison married into the family when he wed Mary Glenn Chambers. That union, much like their businesses, lasted 55 years.
I could talk about all the civic organizations that Harrison was involved in, but I won’t. Let’s just say there were many.
But I want to talk about Uncle Harrison.
Harrison and my dad were different in many ways. Dad is a little high- strung while Harrison was one of the most laid-back people I ever met. He walked slowly. He talked slowly. He basically moved at a snail’s pace, yet accomplished so much for his family and community.
I remember years ago, when they lived on Killian Road seeing Harrison sitting in his easy chair smoking a pipe. He eventually laid the pipe down for chewing tobacco. Yet later in life, he stopped doing that, too.
Harrison was generally a quiet man much like my Granddaddy Collett. Dad, on the other hand, was more talkative like my Granny Collett.
Granny and Granddaddy Collett both passed away years ago, but not before suffering Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately for Harrison and my Dad, they were both also diagnosed with the disease.
Dad was stricken with the disease earlier than Harrison. Thus, Dad’s home became the Canton Nursing Center. Harrison came to see Dad not knowing that one day soon he would also be a resident there.
It was on Oct. 14, 2010, that we had a birthday party for Dad at the nursing home. Several people came to see him although he didn’t recognize most of them. The party was on the patio outside.
Less than 50 feet away, Harrison was struggling to hang onto his life while his family sat in tears. It was, at a minimum, bittersweet for everyone who knew them both. It was one of those times in life when you don’t know how to feel.
A day later on Oct. 15, Harrison left this world for a place far better than this one. He left us in grief with the exception of one. Dad didn’t appear to know anything had changed, though if he did know, he couldn’t relate it. So if Alzheimer’s has an upside, maybe that’s it.
There were many people who showed to pay their respect to Harrison and comfort his family. There were family, friends and many from the Water Authority who came to say goodbye to a man who had done so much for so many. Harrison was one of those people that literally left our community better because of his many good deeds.
Before he became stricken with Alzheimer’s, Harrison was lucky enough to spend a few years in retirement. And I can tell you that he spent that time with his family making more memories for them to remember him by when he would be gone.
It’s been almost three years since he left us. And Dad still sits in the nursing home. I have no explanation for this, except to say it is somehow God’s plan.
Harrison’s position at the Water Authority was awarded to Thomas Heard. I have known Thomas since high school.
Several years ago, we had a drought. It was a bad one. Many in the public safety community and others met to discuss the drought. Everyone was concerned.
I will never forget at one meeting hearing Thomas say after he had listened to everyone else: “Folks. Let me tell you this. It will rain again. And it will rain when God gets ready for it to. So let’s not panic.”
Thomas spoke with about the same speed as Harrison did. And it appeared he had the wisdom needed at that moment. Harrison would have been very proud of Thomas on that day.
I like to think Granddaddy Collett welcomed Harrison home in his quiet way. But I also feel sure that Granny Collett asked him, “Where’s Bobby?”
Chris Collett is a lifelong resident of Cherokee County.