Grace A. Harris was chief of physical therapy at MedStar Franklin Square Hospital from 1976 to 1979, when she went into private practice.
Grace A. Harris was chief of physical therapy at MedStar Franklin Square Hospital from 1976 to 1979, when she went into private practice. (Courtesy photo)

Grace A. Harris, a retired physical therapist who after serving as chief of physical therapy for more than a decade at MedStar Franklin Square Hospital entered private practice, died June 1 of an intestinal blockage the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center.

The longtime Monkton resident was 81.

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The former Grace Ann Gorsuch was the daughter of Francis Marion Gorsuch, founder of Kingsville Bank who also owned Mallory Machine Co. and a trucking company, and his wife, Mary Loretta O’Donnell Gorsuch, a registered nurse.

Mrs. Harris was a descendant of Charles Gorsuch, the owner of Whetstone Point, which was located on the Locust Point peninsula, where he farmed.

He sold the property to the City of Baltimore, which in 1776 built Fort Whetstone on the site, which served as a defense for the city during the Revolutionary War.

In 1798, Fort McHenry began to rise where Fort Whetstone once stood, and the purpose of its replacement was to act as a harbor defense for the Port of Baltimore.

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Completed in 1800, Fort McHenry successfully repulsed an attack by the British Navy in 1814. The fort’s flag during the bombardment was the inspiration for Francis Scott Key’s “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which became the national anthem in 1931.

Interested in her family’s genealogy, Mrs. Harris traced her lineage back to Lord Walter de Scarisbrick, who was born in 1430 and resided at Scarisbrick Hall in Lancashire, England.

“She was very proud of her heritage and Irish heritage,” said her husband of 57 years, William A. “Bill” Harris, who retired in 2004 from Merrill Lynch in Baltimore, where he was a vice president.

After graduating in 1956 from Notre Dame Preparatory School, she became one of the first woman to graduate in 1960 from the University of Maryland, College Parkphysical therapy program.

After graduation, she was offered a position with Dr. R Adams Cowley, who had established what was then the University of Maryland Shock Trauma unit, but instead chose to head the hospital’s physical therapy department.

In 1962, she married Mr. Harris, who was working for Cargill, the grain merchant, which relocated the couple to Fort Worth, Texas, where she was a physical therapist.

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While in Fort Worth, one of her patients was Paul Whiteman, the famous bandleader, composer and violinist, who was known as “The King of Jazz” during the 1920s.

“She treated Paul Whiteman and was very, very proud of that,” Mr. Harris said.

The couple returned to Baltimore in 1967, when Mr. Harris became a stockbroker with Francis I. DuPont, and after that firm was dissolved in 1973, he joined Merrill Lynch in 1974 in Baltimore, where he was vice president until retiring in 2004.

When she was at the University of Maryland, Mrs. Harris became close friends with another therapist, Geraldine DeFlora, and in 1976, the two women joined the staff of MedStar Franklin Square Hospital in White Marsh.

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Mrs. Harris was chief of therapy at the hospital for the next 13 years, when the two women left in 1989 and went into private practice together when they opened their main office on Pulaski Highway in Rosedale, and eventually expanded it to include offices in Glen Burnie and Golden Ring.

“Grace loved her profession and was good at it, and she was a good businesswoman,” said Ms. DeFlora, a resident of Phoenix in Baltimore County.

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“She enjoyed being with patients and getting them better, and the patients liked her very much,” she said. “Patients always came back because those with back pain knew it would come back again. They were always very complimentary and didn’t want to go anywhere else.”

They closed the practice in 2013 and retired.

Mrs. Harris and her husband split their time between their Monkton farm and a second home they maintained at Pinehust of the Chesapeake Bay, where she enjoyed boating, gardening and preparing steamed crabs for family and friends.

After visiting Switzerland in 1983, they purchased a condominium in Bellwald, a small mountain town in the upper Rhône Valley, about three hours drive from Geneva, family members said.

Mrs. Harris was a communicant and longtime choir member of St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Cockeysville. She and her husband traveled extensively with a travel group from the church.

A Mass of Christian burial for Mrs. Harris will be offered at 11 a.m. June 24 at her church, 101 Church Lane, Cockeysville.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by two sons, Chris Harris of Timonium and Bill Harris of Palm City, Fla.; a daughter, Julie Christopherson of Parkton; and five grandchildren.

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