Meet this week’s “Special Person of the Week:Brian Harris
Dear Somerville News,
I would like to nominate someone for the honor of Somerville Person Of The Week. That person is Brian Harris, retired Assistant Chief Probation Officer, Somerville District Court. Although that was the primary hat that Brian wore during his long and successful career, he was much more than that in many other lives in Somerville and beyond, and his work is not done yet.
I think this would be a great a time as any to nominate Brian, as he was just selected as Massachusetts Charter School Athletic Organization (MCSAO) North Division Coach Of The Year.
Although this accolade is an honorable and prestigious one, it is but one small milestone in Brian’s lifetime of community service.
I grew up in Somerville in the 70’s, a time when a lot of young kids did not make it through alive, or out of jail or tangled up somehow with drugs and crime. You don’t have to read more than one of the many books written about what was going on in Somerville in those days to know what I am talking about. I could have been one of those kids, had it not been for Brian Harris. I had begun to drift off of the beaten path in my early teen years and I was headed for a very bad way, but I had the good fortune of being assigned to Brian as his very first case as a Probation Officer at the Somerville District Court. Over the past 40+ years, I’ve remained in contact with Brian and I now consider him to be a good friend, a valuable source of sound advice, and one of the greatest positive influences to ever impact the youth of Somerville and beyond for at least as long as I have known him. Brian though our own interaction in the beginning stages (the “professional stage” of our relationship – chuckle chuckle) taught me that the Judges take care of the judging, so we needn’t do it ourselves. He taught me through my own life experience that there can be good in, and hope for anyone and everyone, and most importantly that at the core, just about all of humanity is good. Through his own example, he taught me how to see this good in people, and more importantly to help them see it in themselves and harvest it. Brian early on gained the trust and respect of my parents and as result if I screwed up in either my house or his “house”, I could expect the same “special” treatment from both sides. My parents came to respect Brian as much as I did, if not more, and they knew they could pick up the phone at any time and he would be there. You won’t find me on the Forbes list and I may not have any Lifetime Achievement Awards laying around the house, but I did get back on track and do a few good things in life. I’d like to say that I’ve followed that example and salvaged a life or two in my time just as Brian did for me, and although I’ll never match what he’s done for humanity, I can say with certainty that I’ll continue to try, and whatever I do accomplish in that respect is directly accredited to him. My story is just one of hundreds, maybe thousands, and I’d imagine much worse situations the others were in.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg; that’s only what Brian has done in his career with the court system. What he’s done for the community and his family in his off-time is of far more significance, and every time I talk to someone about him, I learn another great thing that he has done for someone. Whether it is his impressive academic credentials from Harvard and Norte Dame, or his legendary reputation among his basketball players, he’d never tell me or anyone about these things that he has done himself, he doesn’t do them for recognition or anything else in return, he does them out of genuine compassion for mankind. Aside from that, he doesn’t have the time to boast because he is already – as Coach Belichick would say – “on to the next task”. In my opinion, on the list of positive influences on youth in the city of Somerville, Brian Harris should be very near, if not at the top.
I’ve passed the word around to others that may want to offer some words about Brian, so I’d suggest that if you do decide to support this nomination, that you wait a week before writing up a piece on him, because I’m sure you’re gonna get a few other letters. I think it would be good to get a few words from his kids especially, as this is where he did his best work.
We here at the Somerville News Weekly salute you for everything that you do to make Somerville a better place.