ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. --
Twenty-three-year-old Fran Harris watched as her U.S. Marine husband, Dub Harris, walked towards the door leaving for war, not knowing whether she would see him again and wishing she could do more. So she did.
Fran Harris, now one of the world’s few centenarians, celebrated her 100th birthday in Rapid City, S.D., Sept. 11, 2021. During those hundred years, Fran dedicated herself to helping the men and women serving alongside her husband in the military.
Her life began in 1921 in San Angelo, Texas. It was here she met her husband and started a family. After numerous duty stations as a Marine Corps spouse, her husband left the service and later re-joined the military as an Airman and her passion for helping service members grew.
“We would constantly be bringing home however many Marines and Sailors could pile in our car and my mother would feed all of them, sometimes upwards of 40 people,” said Carol Briggs, Fran’s daughter.
For Fran, it just became a part of the routine.
“It was just a way of life for me,” said Fran.
She wanted to do more, so once her family settled in Rapid City Fran began working at Ellsworth Air Force Base, as the secretary for the Base Supply commander.
“Working at Ellsworth was some of the best years of my life,” said Fran. “I loved being around the young Airmen, I really felt like I was their family.”
Jay Harris, Fran’s son, said that her drive to help the members of the Armed Forces throughout WWII and the Vietnam War and her service to the Air Force as a civilian are an inspiration.
Honoring her sacrifice as a military spouse and Ellsworth employee, her family and the members of Team Ellsworth joined together to present her a flag flown on a B-1B Lancer.
“I served on Active Duty Air Force for 24 years and I don’t think I had ever seen a flag presented to a civilian, but it meant so much to me to see her given the flag because I knew how much she had given to the Air Force,” said retired Master Sgt. Jeff Harris, Fran’s son.
As members from the Ellsworth Honor Guard began folding the flag, tears of friends, family, and countless Air Force veterans filled the room. Fran couldn’t hold her smile back as the flag was placed in her lap.
“I am so thrilled to have been given the flag,” said Fran as she looked at the flag sitting across the room. “I have such pride for my country and the people that serve so it really just means a lot.”
Maj. Caleb Becker, 34th Bomb Squadron pilot, said that it was a privilege to honor someone who dedicated so much of her life to serving other people. He continued by saying her years of dedication are an inspiration and a reminder of what it means to place service before self.
Fran spent her life dedicated to serving those who serve in the U.S. military and continues to share her legacy with the Ellsworth community.
“Living for a hundred years is pretty spectacular, but I also think about the many ways she served the Air Force,” said Jeff Harris. “We are so proud of her.”