Kathleen Sue Harris

Age 49, of DeWitt, MI, passed away January 17, 2016. Kathleen was born November 15, 1966, in Lansing. She graduated from DeWitt High School in 1984. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from Antioch College and her Master of Science degree in Physiology from Temple University. She enjoyed her work in research at various universities. Despite her health issues and pain, she seldom complained.

She is survived by her mother, Lee Mead; the love of her life, David Fertal; and stepsiblings, Michael (Lisa) Mead, Charlene (Emerson Hyde) Mead, Patrick (Angela) Mead, and their children. She was preceded in death by her father, Bill Harris; stepfather, Gale Mead; and all of her grandparents.

A memorial service will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Monday, January 25, 2016, at North Westminster Presbyterian Church in Lansing. Her family will receive friends from 4-7 p.m. on Sunday at the Estes-Leadley Greater Lansing Chapel. Memorial contributions may be made to the charity of one’s choice.

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7 Messages to “Kathleen Sue Harris

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Lisa Ives
January 20, 2016 at 10:46 pm

Kathy was the first friend I met when we moved to DeWitt. We shared a lot of memorable moments growing up…cherished childhood memories. Lee, my thoughts and prayers are with you.

Amy Davis-Comstock
January 21, 2016 at 7:44 pm

Kathleen and I met in college at MSU. She was thoughtful and smart. A great advocate for women’s rights and a great friend, always ready to stick up for people. I had so many good times with Kathleen. We were room mates for awhile and I remember when her snake escaped for a few months. She didn’t tell anyone because she was afraid they would hunt the snake down and hurt it. Eventually the snake showed back up again. The above picture of her shows that smile she had. Just so accepting and warm. My thoughts and prayers go out to her family.

Andy Dyson
January 22, 2016 at 11:15 am

I shared a house in Philadelphia with Kathleen and with my future wife, Moira O’Keeffe, for about a year in the late 1990s. I never met anyone who was a more committed feminist and a more impassioned advocate for justice in general than Kathleen. She was a hard working activist who stood up for her opinions and for her friends with formidable intelligence and deep compassion. She made a big impression on me in a short time. My heart goes out to her friends and family. We’ve lost someone really special.

pete tridish
January 22, 2016 at 1:05 pm

This is Kathleen’s old friend from college, Pete Tridish. I am devastated to hear of her passing, she was such an inspiring person. We worked together on a proposal to lead an Environmental Field Program, a three month trip that Antioch students went on for credit in Environmental Sciences. The idea was a little too crazy and did not get picked- usually the program was lead by two former students, and took the students out camping and visiting rural farms, fisheries, forests, etcetera, but we wanted to go up and down the east coast and spend most of our time looking at the environmental impacts in the cities.

Of course, Kathleen was best known at Antioch for her powerful and effective advocacy on the Sexual Offense Policy, which at the time was lampooned on Saturday Night Live as “too politically correct,” but which has now become the new standard in many colleges. Though it was misrepresented in media, the policy just helped young people who were first learning about intimacy to understand the importance of clear verbal communication, not a man’s “intuition” that gets into his head about what a woman wants. Millions of college women owe their greater safety and greater institutional recourse in the face of sexual violence to Kathleen’s pioneering efforts.

We also were part of a group that launched a pirate radio station in Philadelphia, Radio Mutiny. Her energy and vision contributed immensely to that project. The station was very successful for two years until it was shut down by the FCC… and it was even successful in its demise because we ended up passing national legislation that made these sorts of community radio stations legal, and there are now several thousand around the country. Kathleen was the main contact with the FCC at that time, and managed to create a jovial and friendly dynamic with the agents who were pursuing us. The Chief of Enforcement, Richard Lee, sent her an email comparing himself to the Borg in Star Trek– he said to her “Resistance is Futile ; > ) ” This was another project that Kathleen participated in that sounded radical at the time, but is now acknowledged as common sense– that the airwaves don’t just belong to the corporations, but ordinary people should have a part in making media.

I remember visiting her in her lab and seeing bits and pieces of the experiments she did on artificial blood while she was assisting the award winning inventor, Leland Clark. She had a powerful intellect and a fierce desire to make the world a better place, in every way that she could.

I had lost touch with Kathleen after she left Philadelphia, and don’t really know what she has been doing in recent years. But I always assumed she was out there somewhere fighting fiercely for something important to her, and i was counting on that because she was such a force for justice in this world. My condolences to her current friends and family.

Kelly Hollandsworth-Davis
January 22, 2016 at 11:01 pm

I was intimated (in a good way) by Kathy’s intelligence but always appreciated her kind spirit, easy going demeanor, and caring and fun personality.. May she Rest in Peace and her family and friends find comfort and strength during this sad and difficult time.

Matthew Baya
January 23, 2016 at 12:37 am

I am so sad to hear of Kathleen’s passing. I have nothing but good memories of her. A sharp, strong, and smart woman and a great friend, she will be missed.

January 25, 2016 at 2:17 pm

I remember the first time I met Kathleen Harris. I had opened a coffee shop at Antioch, and I was in early with my boss, trying to figure out how to take inventory. I heard someone, who looked like they had been sleepwalking, pounding at the door with the largest empty coffee cup I had seen. I tried to shoo her away… “We’re closed!” but she kept pounding and pointing to her cup. I let her in, put on a pot and went back to trying to set up an inventory system with an old computer, trying to learn a “Quattro” spreadsheet.

After the first pot, she asked, “Whatcha doing?” I mentioned inventory and the spreadsheet, she responded “I love Quattro, mind if I take a look.” as the magic flowed from her fingers to the keyboard. We took inventory, she taught me about spreadsheets, and we set up an accounting system. This was the first lesson I learned from Kathleen — give the customers what they need, and good things will follow. Thereafter, and to present, I catch myself calling her “Caffeine” almost as much “Kathleen”.

Kathleen was always up for an adventure — although maybe “quest” would be a better word. I remember once when a friend and I were bored during a visit to DC after a wedding, I suggested that we tour/visit Philly to visit Kathleen for the evening. When we met, our request to show us Philly met with a bit of a blank stare, but when my friend mentioned he wanted to see the Rockey statue, our quest was set. Caffeine summoned her magic, driving us around the city searching for the statue. Although the statue had been moved from it’s usual resting place, we saw much of the city, from tourist traps, to cheese steak, to the Rocky steps, to many of the less traveled, more “real” neighborhoods, finally finding the statue at 2:00 a.m. I will always remember her selfless determination to do what ever it takes to make something happen.

Kathleen, I will never forget your enthusiasm for food, passion for science, and our other quests. I will never forget our many discussions about what is reasonable and right as we tried to figure out the world together, and her dedication to making the world a better place. Often, it wasn’t always an easy path, but that never deterred you. We will miss you.


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