Raymond E. Harris Jr., a retired quality-control supervisor and singer, died Tuesday of bone marrow cancer at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. The longtime Hampden resident was 86.
Mr. Harris was born in Baltimore and raised on Singer Avenue in Hampden. He left Polytechnic Institute to help support his family during the Depression.
"He started out with absolutely nothing. He scrubbed floors so his family could eat," said Patricia Harris, a daughter-in-law.
"As a young man, he was active in sports, especially softball and basketball. He was a talented fast-ball pitcher, and the money he earned pitching often exceeded his wages, and when money was scarce, he often recalled being paid with dairy products and farm produce," she said.
In 1937, he took an entry-level job with Noxzema Chemical Co. on Falls Cliff Road in Hampden and retired in 1984 from what became Noxell Corp. in Hunt Valley.
"He had set up the quality-control department and was its supervisor when he retired," Mrs. Harris said.
During World War II, Mr. Harris served with the Army Medical Corps in North Africa and Italy, and attained the rank of staff sergeant.
A tenor, Mr. Harris sang with the choir of Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in Hampden, where he had been a member for many years. He also was a member of a singing group that entertained patients in area nursing homes and hospitals with renditions of popular music from the Big Band era and Broadway show tunes.
Until relinquishing his driver's license a few years ago, Mr. Harris, known as "Mr. Ray," transported seniors and neighbors who needed rides.
"Mr. Ray never met a person he couldn't talk to, heard a song he couldn't sing, and never failed to offer help to those in need," his daughter-in-law said.
His wife of 49 years, the former Thelma Wheat, a homemaker, died in 1991.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road.
Also surviving are two sons, Raymond E. "Chip" Harris III of Towson and Michael K. Harris of Dallas; and three grandchildren.