LCDR Stephen R. Harris, U.S. Navy (Ret.), Officer in Charge of the USS Pueblo’s communications intelligence passed away peacefully at the Edith Rogers Memorial Veterans’ Hospital in Bedford on Monday, May 18, 2020, at age 82.
Stephen was born in Melrose on March 31, 1938, the son of the late Robert S. Harris and Eleanor L. (Van Buskirk) Harris. Stephen was raised in Melrose and graduated from Melrose High School. He entered the ROTC program while at Harvard University. Upon his graduation in 1960, he was immediately commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Navy and served as a communications officer aboard two Navy ships positioned in the Atlantic in the early 1960’s.
After being sent to Russian language school, Stephen served most of his Naval career as a cryptologist (communications intelligence specialist). Serving his country with humble dedication and pride, Stephen was the officer in charge of the USS Pueblo’s communications intelligence when the ship was captured by the North Koreans during the Vietnam War. Stephen survived 11 months as a POW in North Korea, and was honored with military awards including the Purple Heart, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, and two Navy Commendation Medals. Stephen retired from active duty as a Lieutenant Commander in 1981 at Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego.
Following his Naval career, Stephen was employed at a South Central Los Angeles high school as the head of a Navy Jr. ROTC program until 1995. He then served as a substitute teacher in high schools in southern California before moving back to Melrose in 1997.
A steam-powered train enthusiast, Steve was involved with many train organizations throughout New England. He also helped refurbish a vintage Pullman Sleeper Car train that traveled on the railways for special events. An old soul, Steve had a passion for trains, and enjoyed learning and sharing his love for the railroads with his friends and family. Steve also enjoyed vintage automobiles, and used his great memory to recall nearly every make and model of vehicle from the 1920s through the 1970s.
Stephen was a deeply spiritual man who authored a book, My Anchor Held, that detailed his strong connection to his faith through life’s challenges. He was grateful for the opportunity to speak about his life at more than a thousand events, including governors’ and mayors’ prayer breakfasts, as well as presentations on Capitol Hill and the White House. With a dry wit, Stephen was known for his quick yet understated sense of humor. Above all, he was a humble man who valued his integrity, his family, and held close to his heart a deep respect for his country.
He will be deeply missed, lovingly remembered, and his contribution to serving our country will not be forgotten. Stephen was the beloved husband of Elizabeth “Beth” (Gould) Harris, and the late Esther (Uotinen) Harris. Devoted father of Christiana L. Harris of Lowell, Colby G. Harris of Lynn, Robert S. Harris, II and his wife Maria of Malden, and Eric J. Holmes of Melrose. Cherished grandfather of Stephen Jones, Kaitlyn Jones, Madilyn Harris, all of Lowell, and Camilla Holmes and Ainsley Holmes, both of Arlington. Relatives and friends will be invited to gather in honor of Stephen’s life at Grace Chapel, Lexington for a Funeral Service at a date and time to be announced. Interment with military honors presented by the U.S. Navy at Arlington National Cemetery. For online tribute or to send a message of condolence to the family, please visit RobinsonFuneralHome.com Life Celebration by Robinson Funeral Home.
Published in The Boston Globe on May 24, 2020