Written by Peter Moskos; copy edited by Katie Beaton
I first met David Harrison when we both sang in a summer choir composed of singers who could not get through June, July, and August without a singing fix. David and I recognized each other as old fellows, so we sat together, joining our rusty baritones for pieces by Mozart, Brahms, and Verdi.
In 2011, I assumed the chair of the BC Branch of Editors Canada (now Editors BC). I inherited a wonderful executive group, among whom was David, our secretary. I was surprised then to discover that my fellow baritone was also an editor.
As secretary, David provided excellent service. Not only did he make great contributions to our discussions, but he also kept excellent meeting minutes.
At our meetings, he would record, in point-form notes, our proceedings and our important decisions. He would then send his notes to me, and I would review them for accuracy and more importantly, use them as a list of actions that the executive members and I would have to do before our next meeting. His to-do list was invaluable.
Before our next meeting, David would take his point-form notes and write them up as an eloquent narrative, which the executive group would then approve as minutes of the last meeting. I never worked with David as an editor, but his polished minutes led me to believe that he must have been a very good editor and writer.
At that time, I was encouraging members of our executive group to volunteer their services to the national executive, as I wanted to make sure that Editors BC was well represented at the national level.
With my encouragement, David put his name forward to be national secretary. Several times, the chairperson of the national executive told me what a terrific job David was doing as secretary. However, after some time, David no longer wanted to continue to volunteer for the national board. The following September, he returned to our local branch as secretary.
During his time on the national executive, David and I started meeting every second week for coffee. We met at several coffee houses around Vancouver, but our favourite was Caffè Cittadella on Ash Street. The purpose of these meetings was for David to keep me posted as to what was going on at the national level and later, after he left the national executive, to give me his views on issues affecting our local branch.
Our meetings soon went beyond this purpose. They became lovely exchanges of two old fellows swapping stories and views on life. David was about 10 years older than me, and he generously told me what to expect as my years advanced. We spent a lot of time talking about aches and pains and the discomforts of our age. One of his most valuable talks to me was about the resources available for getting a hearing aid. But what intrigued me most was not the health issues we discussed, but David’s stories about being a helicopter pilot. David had had a number of careers, but his years as a helicopter pilot working for mining companies were by far the most interesting. David talked, too, about helping to educate his grandchildren and coaching young people in sports.
I miss my coffee dates with David very much. They were free-flowing exchanges of views about many things, and they were always satisfying.
Editors BC was very lucky to have David in our midst. He served us well as our secretary, but more importantly, he contributed to our discussions with wisdom and candour. He even went so far as to present us with a talk and PowerPoint slide show that explained how our branch fit into Editors Canada across the country.
David was a fine person and an excellent member of our organization. He was generous, wise, and compassionate. We will miss his advice and the contributions he made while serving editors in our province.
Peter Moskos is a retired editor and the former chairperson of Editors BC.
Katie Beaton recently discovered her love of editing and decided to enrol in the Editing Certificate program at SFU. She hopes to one day work as a professional editor. Until then, she continues to pursue her other love: travel. When she’s not exploring the world, she can be found teaching yoga, writing, and enjoying every brunch spot Vancouver has to offer.
Image provided by the late David Harrison’s family and taken by his late wife, Ruth Harrison
3 thoughts on “Remembering David Harrison”
A fitting tribute to a wonderful contributor to Editors BC and Editors Canada, Peter. We will all miss David. I especially enjoyed reading about your coffee meetings with him.
When I heard that David had died, I went back through the email exchanges we’d had while serving together on the Editors BC executive. Every note from David, no matter how mundane the topic, contained some lively spark of wit, a footprint of his irrepressible personality. We editors were fortunate to have such an intelligent, kind man in our midst.
I never knew that David was a singer. I first met him through the Pacific Spirit Triathlon club, so we can add sport to the list of David’s talents and interests. I particularly remember David’s wit and humour, and I still smile when I think of him telling the executive the story of Vancouver’s “Dynamite Pizza” restaurant, which blew out its front window late one night after someone used a too-volatile oven cleaner.