Local | Senior Lifestyle

British native finds warm welcome in Tucson

Ed Harris’ suspenders celebrate his British heritage. (Sarah Chen/AJP)
Ed Harris’ suspenders celebrate his British heritage. (Sarah Chen/AJP)

Edward Harris still celebrates the day he arrived in New York from London with only $28 in his pocket: Feb. 8, 1954. A dual citizen of the United States and Britain, he feels fortunate to have slowed his globetrotting days here in Tucson.

Harris was born in 1934, just outside London. The middle of three brothers, he was raised in an Orthodox family that regularly attended the Westcliff shul. He sang in the choir from age 6 and played on the Jewish soccer team. After the World War II London bombings destroyed his father’s tailor shop, the family relocated to the Oxford countryside for safety.

He immigrated to New York at the age of 19, tracing relatives who sponsored him to stay on in the United States. Shortly after his arrival, he was drafted into the U.S. Army as a baker and served tours in Germany and France. While stationed in Bordeaux, he attended Rosh Hashanah services at a synagogue in Paris, where he met a man who would become a lifelong friend, the late Charlie Casper. In 1989, he and Casper took their wives to revisit all the places they’d been stationed.

After the war, Harris started work as a travel agent with Thomas Cook, a British global travel firm. He relocated to Los Angeles in 1959. There, he met his late wife, Paula, an executive secretary. They were married at Temple Beth Am, where Harris sang in the choir. The couple traveled often together — America, Europe, Israel — but their favorite pastime was cruising. They sailed regularly on the Queen Mary 2 to England; other destinations included Alaska, Australia, and countries in South America and the Caribbean.

The Harrises settled in Arizona in 1995, moving to Sun Lakes, an active retirement community southeast of Phoenix. There, Harris founded his own airport shuttle service, “Your English Chauffer,” which was extremely successful. “I never turned anyone down,” Harris recalls. “I worked 24/7 driving my Lincoln Town Car all around.” He sold the business when he moved to Tucson in 2013.

“My opinion of Tucson is that it’s one of the nicest places to live in America,” he says. “Wherever you go, people are friendly! It’s a combination of factors: the climate, the scenery and having so many interesting places to go.” Initially surprised at how active the Jewish community was in Tucson, he can be regularly found attending Chabad in Oro Valley. “I think the world of Ephraim,” he says of Chabad’s Rabbi Zimmerman. Although he still wishes there were more opportunities to sing in choirs here, he’s satisfied with how expansive and inclusive the Jewish community is.

Harris can be spotted wearing his signature suspenders and bowties around town. He spends his mornings day trading on the stock market, a hobby he’s continued for many years. He volunteers at polling stations for elections and drives as a volunteer for Interfaith Community Services. He regularly participates in Oro Valley Toastmasters. His must-sees in Tucson are Tohono Chul Park, the Chantilly Tea Room and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

He and his cat, Shadow, love Tucson and Harris has no plans to slow down, although he claims his travel days are over. While he readily admits that “it’s not easy keeping up with technology,” Harris sneakily checks his iPhone 5 for stock movements and even has the Starbucks app. “I’ve done great with Starbucks stock,” he says. “I bought in at $19 a share.”

A share now goes for $96.

Sarah Chen is a freelance writer living in northwest Tucson with her husband, son and daughter.