On Friday, the area lost one of its strong role models as longtime coach Clara Harris, 81, passed away at here home in Cleveland due to complications from Alzheimer’s.
Harris spent almost 30 years coaching at Cleveland High School and Margaret Green Junior High School. During her career, Harris was the head girls track coach at MGJH and CHS, head girls cross country coach at CHS and served as head girls basketball coach at CHS.
Harris was known for being a disciplinarian that was a kind mother figure to her athletes and a reliable employee in the school that was a dear friend to her colleagues.
Cleveland Central High School girls basketball head coach Whitney Shepard Williams, who ran track under Harris at CHS, said Harris was caring and compassionate.
“Coach Harris was truly one of a kind,” Williams, a 2004 CHS graduate, said. “She cared about every student that crossed her path. She was an encourager and always taught us that we could do anything with hard work. She pushed us to our limits but was one of the most genuine coaches you’d ever meet. She wore the biggest smile through our success and taught the most valuable life lessons through our failures. She believed in us, as athletes, when we didn’t believe in ourselves. Her legacy will forever be in our hearts.”
Stephanie Tyler Stephens, who ran for Coach Harris in track and is also her niece, said Harris was tough but loving and had the respect of everyone she coached.
“She was strict,” Stephens, a1994 CHS graduate, said. “She was the best coach I ever had. She was a good person, and everybody loved being around her. She was funny. She kept you laughing. She was like a second mom. She kept the girls in line. We all respected her.”
Jenny McCullough, who was the girls basketball head coach at CHS from 1998-2016, said her and Harris developed a great friendship right off the bat that last over the years.
“I’m very, very thankful and blessed to have known Coach Harris,” McCullough said. “She would help out with us and come to practice some. She drove the bus for us for several years. She was a part of the team. She was a part of the program. We weren’t just colleagues, we were great friends. Every time Cleveland High School had a football game, she and I were in the vehicle going to the games. We had a lot of good times that went beyond the coaching. She had such a wonderful relationship with the kids. She’s going to be missed.”
Mickey Sellers, who coached football at MGJH and CHS, said Coach Harris had a passion for CHS and MGJH.
“First of all, nobody loved Cleveland High School and Margaret Green more than Coach Harris did,” Sellers said. “She cared about those kids and never did you call on her to help you with something and her turn you down. She was always there. If you needed someone to drive a bus, she would drive a bus. If you needed her to help to do anything, she was always there. She coached track for a long time and basketball too.
“I remember one time, she told me she would help me coach football,” Sellers recalled with a chuckle. “That was just the way she was. She went to all the football games, whether it was at home or on the road, she was always there. She was involved with Cleveland High School and Margaret Green for an awfully long time.”
Funeral services for Harris are still pending.