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Dr. Bruce Harris, 79, Springfield;

Neurosurgeon, Farmer, Musician

Dr. Bruce S. Harris

SPRINGFIELD CENTER – Dr. Bruce S. Harris, physician, farmer and musician, died on March 31, 2018, at home, where he had been cared for by hospice and his family. The cause of death was metastatic prostate cancer.

His death brought closure to a life of professionalism and service, of cultivation and propagation of a love of the arts, most especially music, and of commitment to a way of life that was simultaneously private and outward-facing.

Many who knew him thought of him as a Renaissance man. He was active in a public sphere – in concerts, in opera, in the organization of bringing extraordinary levels of musical activity to the community – and he cultivated his own garden, in a literal sense.

He was known to have delivered a calf and operate on a brain tumor on the same day. In the evenings, he played the piano to a virtually professional level, and probably did so that same evening.

Dr. Harris was born on Jan. 1, 1939, in Morristown, N.J., to Anna C. Stephens Harris and Earl S. Harris, and grew up with his older brother, Seth, and younger sister, Nancy, in the rural village of Vienna, N.J., where generations of ancestors had lived.

He attended public schools there, went on to Cornell University and Hahnemann Medical School & Hospital in Philadelphia, and completed neurosurgical training at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, where he met a charming nurse from Norway, Mona Skredsvig. She became his wife of 48 years after their marriage in Drammen, Norway, in 1969.

Bruce was commissioned as a Naval officer, assigned to the Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and they spent their first two years in Rock Creek Park with a grand piano and a Boxer.

After a brief time in Portland, Maine, they settled in Cooperstown where, Bruce spent nearly 40 years as an attending neurosurgeon at Bassett Hospital and was an assistant clinical professor at Columbia P&S, teaching medical students and residents from a number of programs.

He described himself as grounded in medicine and harnessed by his beloved Lochiel Farm in Springfield, where there were always fences to be pushed back, stone walls to be built, and endless buildings to be modeled, remodeled and painted.

Inspired by the musical opportunities the region had to offer, Bruce was an early board member of Glimmerglass Opera (where he sang in nearly 100 chorus performances). He was a founder of the Voices of Cooperstown, where he and Mona both sang, and served on the board of the Cooperstown Music Festival, performing in the Pro-Am concerts each summer. He and Mona also sang in the Catskill Choral Society.

His talent as a pianist was further challenged and recognized by summer music camp in Vienna, Austria, where he was honored by being invited to be the accompanist for vocal students of a high standard.

Bruce is survived by his beloved wife, Mona; daughter, Kirsten; and son, Colin, who came from France and Manhattan to be with him in his illness; his 3-year-old grandson, Lucas Harris Mabille; sister, Nancy Rieser of New Zealand; and nephew, William Harris and family of New York.

He was predeceased by his brother.

He was a member of Christ Episcopal Church, Cooperstown, where he was (of course) a choir member, and vestryman. Funeral services will take place at 11 a.m., Saturday, April 7, at Christ Church, followed by a reception.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a contribution in Bruce’s memory to Catskill Area Hospice & Palliative Care, 1 Birchwood Drive, Oneonta, NY 13820, or the Guild of Glimmerglass Festival, P.O. Box 191, Cooperstown, NY 13326.
Arrangements are under the care of Tillapaugh Funeral Service, Cooperstown.


1 Comment

  1. This is a fine and respectful write up about Bruce’s life. I am sure he will be greatly missed in the community.

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