Harrison was welcomed into the world by his young parents, Susan and John Dollard on May 21,1941. He was their first child. His mother made sure he always looked perfect and his Dad would bundle him up as a small baby to take him on his Indian motorcycle for rides.
Unfortunately, John Dollard passed away when Harrison was only a year old. He had served in WW2 and an injury to his lungs led to his premature death.
Susan tried her best to provide for her son, but it was a challenge for a young single mother. They moved to Calgary when Harrison was 10. Susan had to get special permission to take him out of school in the 9th grade so he could work full time to make ends meet. Jobs in construction, at CP Rail in the office—whatever it took because that was what you did back then.
He wanted to make sure his mother was out of debt before he left home. By age 21 this was done so he moved to Edmonton to take a job selling medical supplies to hospitals. The work took him all over Alberta but he was very good at his job and met his first wife while at one of the hospitals in Edmonton. She was a lab assistant.
Finding out what people wanted and convincing them to buy it from him was a skill Harrison took a very short time to develop. He realized that a “handicap” he’d had since birth ended up being a great asset in his chosen field—the travelling salesman.
This asset was being 90% deaf in one ear and 60% deaf in the other. All his life, he had unknowingly been developing his entrepreneurial skills.
HE LEARNED TO LISTEN! INTENTLY, DEEPLY AND WITH HIS WHOLE BEING. A large number of would be salesmen actually talk themselves out of the deal.
This was not the case with Harrison. He was laser focused on his client so he could hear them, he would hear what it is that they wanted, and proceed to seal the deal by being just the man to provide it.
He intuitively knew how to close a deal. He would ask for the money and shut his mouth. If he talked first, he would likely lose. He found that when he asked for the money he had to shut up.
His ability to develop a relationship with people came easily to this rather shy young man, because people could sense his interest and concern for them because of his listening skills.
The listening was the “Trust Factor” not the talking.
Harrison met and married a lab technician in Edmonton and had 2 children, both boys, that they named Chad and Max whom he loved dearly .
Along with his talent in sales, he was developing a talent in drinking alcohol as well. This elixir seemed to give this shy guy extra confidence but because he had the disease of alcoholism it quickly became a liability which led to the end of his first marriage by the time the boys were 5 and 6 years old. He moved to Calgary and married again. He had a daughter named Shona who became the sparkle in his eye, but his drinking which had now become a drinking problem (still unknown to him) once again led to the end of a marriage when Shona was only 3. Both ex-wives remarried men who were not alcoholic and provided stability for Harrison’s kids. Years later when he became sober he realized what a blessing this was for everyone involved.
The party was now in full swing and Harrison picked the perfect job for a budding alcoholic. Bartending!! He could now drink mostly for free and thought it made him a much better employee. He ended up doing the same in an after hours club till he was 49 years old.
A good friend whom Harrison knew had an alcohol problem asked if he would take him to Alcoholics Anonymous to get some help. Harrison willingly obliged thinking that he was doing a good deed.
Within a few months, Harrison was basically homeless, had been replaced by another man in the relationship he was in, did not have a pot to you know what in and was just beginning to get the sense that his life was not going that well.
He decided then that maybe he, too, should check out this Alcoholics Anonymous. He ended up going to three or four meetings a day because he was going crazy and still didn’t fully realize why. A person at one of the AA meetings suggested he go talk to the people at Recovery Acres, a men’s facility for recovering addicts and alcoholics.
He made an appointment with Peter C, one of the long term counsellors at 1835 (which the clients nicknamed because of the address 1835 17 Av SW Calgary)
He was quick to point out to Peter that he should only need a couple of weeks there, take a break from all the chaos that was going on in his life at the time. He had had an “awakening” a few days earlier when in the depths of the hell he was in, he dropped to his knees and asked: “God if you are there, and I do not know for sure if you are, please help me.”
Two weeks turned into 8 months, much to Harrisons surprise. I might point out here that he was the only one at 1835 who WAS surprised. He left Recovery Acres a changed man, willing to do whatever was needed to to maintain his sobriety. The house (1835) had requirements to attend several AA meetings a week plus the in-house meetings as well. Harrison loved the meetings, they were helping himself and others so much, he had no problem meeting these requirements and exceeding them.
With the help of Harrisons newly found Higher Power, whom he never lost, and the old style,hard ass,tough love counsellors who always told the clients the truth, Harrison was free of the bonds of alcoholism which had enslaved him till he was almost half a century old. He took his first drink at a wedding that him and a friend crashed when he was 14. He had such a great time that he threw up all over the schoolhouse steps and then proceeded to pass out on them.
He continued to do much of the same till he stood at the door of Recovery Acres, a broken man who thought his life was over.
Now Harrison had hope, his AA program and a Higher Power. He realized he had to work the steps and the program one day at a time and be open always to the help which would be so freely offered.
Harrison was vigilant about his commitment to recovery and life change from that point on. He never faltered in the belief that he would always be taken care of on his journey by a loving source. He was a fixture at AA meetings, as he used to say, he drank for half his life every day why would he not need and want a meeting at least once a day. As his life relationships and career opportunities improved he ended up in Lethbridge (not by accident of course) to take the job of his dreams at SAMS (Southern Alcare Manor) which provided his the opportunity on a career level to be of service to other alcoholics and do his best to pass on the principles of the program he had not only come to love but realized had given him a new life at the tender age of 49.
He grew and flourished in his own program by helping others, and it just happened to be what he did at work every day. He thought that his life could not get any better.
He met Pat McMurren in 1999 and there was an immediate connection. It grew into marriage in 2002. Harrison “adopted” Pats 3 teenage girls as if they were his own and did the best he could to be an example of good living and a principled life. He grew to love them dearly and they in turn loved him back as much as three teenaged girls can. Now they are adult women who still maintain a loving and respectful relationship with their “stepdad.”
Christine McMurren, Jennifer Rurka and Angela McMurren are those three lovely women, and still such an important part of Harrison’s life.
Pat and Harrison would have celebrated their 19th wedding anniversary on June 14 this year. They were together for almost 22 years and worked through the good and not so good times, like every marriage has. They maintained a deep and lasting love throughout.
Harrison passed away on May 17,2021 at the age of 80 at the Lethbridge Regional Hospital. He’d had a heart attack in 2008, plus, some other medical issues which were exacerbated by his drinking career.
He never imagined when he was going up the steps of Recovery Acres that he would live to be 80 (May 9) and get 30 years of sobriety (Jan 27/21) and a life better than he could have imagined.
His wife was fortunate to share in Harrison’s final hours which she will always treasure the memory of. She knows he will be watching out for her, always.
He will be dearly missed by his family and many friends.
There will be a private celebration of life will be held for family and close friends when covid permits.
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