Lois C. Harrison, the matriarch of a family of Ocean City hotel owners, died in her sleep yesterday at her home in the resort town. She was 98.
Born Lois Carmean in Eure, N.C., she came to Ocean City to manage the old Shoreham Hotel in 1944 and married G. Hale Harrison, president of Harrison Brothers Nurseries, a large Eastern Shore peach tree nursery.
Mrs. Harrison left her hotel career after she married, but by the early 1950s, she wanted to go back into the business.
She and her husband built Harrison Hall, at the resort's 15th Street and the Boardwalk, in 1951. Newspaper articles at the time said it was the first hotel built in Ocean City in 20 years.
"There had not been any hotels built since the Depression. Everyone was too afraid to start a new venture," said a son, Hale Harrison. "Harrison Hall kicked off the building boom of the 1950s and 1960s. At that time, it was the northernmost hotel in Ocean City."
He said the hotel cost $124,000 -- and his father put up the farms he owned in order to finance it. He said the hotel opened as the Chesapeake Bay Bridge was being completed.
Mrs. Harrison ran the 77-room hotel and later added 20 more rooms.
"She supervised the dining room and housekeeping, and designed and decorated Harrison Hall," her son said.
Her husband died in 1961. Her two sons -- Hale and John H. Harrison of Berlin, who had worked at Harrison Hall and operated a soft-drink stand on the boardwalk -- then went into the hotel business on their own. The bought the old Victorian-style Plimhimmon and acquired or built numerous other ventures over the years -- including the Diplomat, Stardust, Quality Inn and Hilton.
"Our mother encouraged us to try things and never to be afraid to fail," her son John said in a 1983 Sun article.
Mrs. Harrison retired in 1971.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Stevenson United Methodist Church in Berlin.
In addition to her two sons, survivors include a daughter, Helen Faucette of Ormond Beach, Fla.; seven grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.