Philip Harrison was wearing a beaming smile and a sweatshirt emblazoned with “It took me 100 years to look this good” as he was joined by more than one hundred family members and friends on Sunday at Berea Baptist Church, where he is the oldest living member. The group was gathered to celebrate with Philip and his wife Fanny and to mark the occasion of his 100th birthday.
Born on April 3, 1919 in a hardware store in Powell County, Philip was raised at the foot of the Pinnacles in the log house that still sits on the property today. His father was the Berea College Forestry Agent. Philip graduated from Berea College in 1941 with an agriculture degree. He served in the Army during WWII, then returned to Berea and opened the Southern States Store at the age of 25. He and Fanny also opened the Berea Frozen Food Locker in the 1950s. They are the parents of three daughters, Brenda Williams, Teresa Kruse, and Ronda Taylor.
Berea Mayor Bruce Fraley thanked Philip for his years of public service. He was on Berea City Council for two years and served for nine years as a Berea Sewer Commissioner.
Fraley also recognized Philip’s lifetime of work, “I am aware of you opening and operating Harrison Farm Supply…although I didn’t come along until later…I well remember stopping by your business with my father and grandfather.” He continued, “You set a good example of the importance of hard work and industriousness for everyone who knew you and paved the way for future generations of Bereans. You made a positive and lasting mark on our city and our local economy. We owe you a debt of gratitude.”
Pam Perry and Dove Creek provided musical entertainment for the event. Including the presentation of an original song co written by Perry and Wayne Combs. Perry is friend of the Harrison’s youngest daughter, Ronda and the song, “Bottom of my Soul” is from her point of view.
Ronda said, “I’ve always been Daddy’s biggest fan. For Pam to capture my feelings in that song is priceless. It was such a gift.”
A tribute to the father/daughter relationship, Sunday’s performance was the first time the song was sung in public.
Also performing at the celebration were Jennifer Rose Escobar and the Berea Festival Dancers who were delighted to have Philip join them in a Virginia Reel. According to daughter Ronda, “He has always loved to dance.”
Observers suspect the secret to Philip’s longevity may have something to do with his work ethic. He became a beekeeper at the age of 95 and is almost finished writing a book. There are currently 60 chapters in the collection of stories about his life.