Jerena Lee “Jerry” (Arthur) Harris, 84, of Columbia, passed away on May 29, 2024, in Columbia.

There will be a Celebration of Life on July 31, 2024, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Columbia Country Club, 2210 Country Club Drive, Columbia, MO 65201, when the family will gather to receive family and friends. A private family service will be held in June.

Jerry was born on September 7, 1939, to Clarence and Virginia (Carney) Arthur in Rolla, Mo. An only child, she was doted on by her loving parents, a postal worker and homemaker/legal secretary, as well as by a large extended family in Rolla, including many cousins, aunts and uncles who made her small family feel larger. Recognized as a leader among her peers,

Jerry was a member of Rainbow Girls as a teenager, eventually becoming the State Dean for the Grand Cross of Color, one of the highest ranking statewide positions in the organization.

Jerry graduated from Rolla High School in 1957 and spent her first two years of higher education at what was then the Missouri School of Mines (now known as Missouri S&T), where she was one of only a few women in the entire student body.

She transferred to the University of Missouri-Columbia for her last two years of college and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education in 1961. She was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, a member of the University Chorus, and active in the Young Democrats, volunteering on John F. Kennedy’s 1960 Presidential campaign.

It was at Mizzou where she met Robert Joel “Bob” Harris, and according to family lore, she canceled their first date to instead study for an exam. Their paths did not cross again for some time until they reconnected at a mutual friend’s engagement party, and the rest, as they say, is history. Bob and Jerry were married on August 20, 1961, at the First Presbyterian Church in Rolla, Mo., and made their home in Columbia for all 61 years of their marriage. Two children were born of the marriage, Robert Jeffrey “Jeff” Harris and Julie Lee (Harris) Shaw.

Jerry worked as a math teacher at Fulton High School during the early years of their marriage. She later stayed home to raise Jeff and Julie, all the while continuing to stay active in the community and with her children’s many activities. She was a member of King’s Daughters, Ruth Circle, and served as chair of the Columbia King’s Daughters Dental Aid Program Board of Directors, providing dental care to children in need. Through Dental Aid, she helped coordinate the 2015 statewide Missouri Mission of Mercy Dental Care event.

She also volunteered with the American Cancer Society and served as the State Public Education Chairperson, and held leadership roles in the Boone County Medical Society Auxiliary. She was the rush advisor for the Mizzou Kappa Alpha Theta chapter for many years, opening her home to the Rush Board to prepare for Rush Week when the chapter did not yet have air conditioning.

She later served as the Theta College District President for several states. While her volunteer work was important, family always came first for Jerry, and she was a constant presence and supporter at Julie’s plays and Jeff’s golf tournaments and always their fiercest advocate. When Julie was at Hickman, Jerry was instrumental in getting an extra hour created to give students more opportunities in the fine arts. In addition to her own children, she served as a mother and role model to many, opening her home for countless friends and young people who stayed, and even lived there, over the years.

She delighted in her grandchildren, Jack and Caroline Shaw and Grace and Ted Harris, and did her best to keep track of their activities and interests. She loved Dr. Pepper, and enjoyed antiquing, watching Cardinals baseball with Bob, and reading mysteries, usually determining “who did it” in the first few chapters.

Jerry worked with Bob as a scheduler and manager for nearly the last 30 years of his medical practice at Tiger Pediatrics, supporting his practice and all of the families and children. Both only children, Bob and Jerry were united as a team throughout their marriage. For those who knew them and loved them, it is impossible to think of one without the other. Bob preceded her in death in 2023.

Most of all, she will be lovingly remembered by her family to whom she was forever and unfailingly devoted: son Robert Jeffrey “Jeff” Harris and wife Katie (Perry) Harris and children Grace and Ted, of Columbia; and daughter Julie Harris Shaw and husband Stuart and children Jack and Caroline, of Overland Park, Ks.

A special thank you to all the extended family who helped Jerry after Bob’s passing, including Gregg Morgan and Earl Coleman, and many others who assisted with transportation. The family also wishes to thank the caregivers at Westbury Assisted Living and Columbia Post-Acute for their care.

At Jerry’s request, memorial contributions are suggested to HealthWell Foundation, 20440 Century Blvd., Ste. 250, Germantown, Maryland 20874,, to assist with out-of-pocket expenses for persons with chronic or life-altering diseases.

Arrangements are under the direction of Parker-Millard Funeral Service & Crematory, 12 East Ash Street, Columbia, MO 65203 (573) 449-4153. Condolences may be left online for the family at