NEW SALEM- Robert E. “Bob” Harris, Jr. , 77, of Neilson Road New Salem, President and owner of Orange Oil Company, died unexpectedly on Wednesday June 5th at Athol Hospital after being stricken ill earlier at home.
Bob was born on November 16, 1941 in Montague Massachusetts. He was the son of Robert E. Sr. and Marie Harris and raised in Orange and New Salem. He graduated from New Salem Academy in 1959.
Bob had an amazing work ethic that was evident early on in his life. He began pumping gas at his father’s gas station in Orange while he was in grade school. The business evolved and his father started Orange Oil Company in 1947. Bob often took the truck to high school, delivering heating oil and kerosene after school hours. His father wanted him to go to college; Bob wanted to go to trade school. He obtained his license to be a burner technician and it was then that Orange Oil was able to offer service/installations as well as delivery. Not one to sit idle, Bob obtained his trailer truck license and convinced his father to buy a tractor trailer truck so they could haul their own oil out of Sterling and Boston. Bob worked long hours his entire life. In his younger years he did service and deliveries by day and hauled oil at night. In later years he was still the first one in the door in the morning and the last one to leave. He really did love to work.
Bob was married to Pamela (Hurlburt) Harris and they enjoyed almost 50 years together. They raised five children: Bob III, Joe, John, Tawyna and Kirsten. They lived frugally and spent a lot of time outdoors creating their own entertainment be it playing sports, swimming, building forts in the woods, etc.
Bob had many different hobbies throughout his life. In his high school years he played basketball and baseball. His basketball team once won a championship that Bob compared to the Hoosiers movie. He continued playing in his adult years on a local softball team. Bob always had a backup plan, and when short on players, Pam and the kids were put on the team. He enjoyed watching the professional New England sports teams and was a meticulous vegetable gardener. He had a particular fondness of peppers and often had over 100 plants and shared his bounty with anyone who liked peppers. After his children had grown and moved out, he began pursuing his favorite hobby of collecting classic cars. For the last 20+ years that hobby took him and Pam on countless vacation destinations, their favorite being the car show at Lake George in New York every September. Bob was also a charter (founding) member of the North Quabbin Cruisers car club and spent many years as President. He devoted countless hours to the annual Harvest Car Show that raised money for the Orange Business Association for scholarships. He loved weekly cruise nights at the former Elks Club and now at Market Basket and Anne’s Drive In and enjoyed having his grandchildren there with him. Many friendships developed over the years out of his love of classic cars.
Bob was predeceased by his parents.
He leaves behind his loving and amazingly devoted wife Pam and his best friend – dog Tucker, his children Robert Harris III (wife Andrea) of New Salem, Joe Harris (wife Pam) of Athol, John Harris of Petersham, Tawnya Harris (Peter Enselek) of West Brookfield, Kirsten McCarthy (fiancé Rich Davis) of New Salem, 9 grandchildren (Chelsea and Booie Harris; Harper and Adam Harris; Nickalis Harris; Kaitlynde Burns and Larry Welcome; Connor and Morgan McCarthy); 7 great grandchildren; a sister, Suzanne Harris of New Salem; brothers, Gary Harris (wife Janis) of Medway and Mark Harris (wife Andrea) of Watertown; numerous nieces and nephews and last but certainly not least, his Orange Oil Family who loved him and knew him best.
There are no calling hours.
A celebration of life will be held on Saturday, June 15, 2019 at 3 p.m. at the ORANGE CENTRAL CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH, 93 South Main Street, Orange, with Rev. Edward Boren of the North New Salem Congregational Church officiating. Guests are encouraged to dress casually, especially in Bob’s favorite colors, blue and orange.
Classic car enthusiast are also encouraged to bring their cars and line South Main Street for the celebration of life.
Interment in North New Salem Cemetery will be private.
In Lieu of flowers, donations in Bob's memory are suggested to the Athol Salvation Army, 107 Ridge Avenue, Athol, MA 01331.
Witty's Funeral Home, 158 South Main Street, Orange, is directing the arrangements.
You may offer your sympathy online at www.wittyfuneralhome.com