Jeffery Scott Harrison
14 March 1960 - 3 March 2011
by David W. Aungst
Born to parents Jimmie (his legal name really is "Jimmie") and Lois, Jeff is the oldest of seven children and the only boy. His six sisters are Deb, Darcy, Lori, Beth, Charnelle, and Linda. Born and raised in Indiana, the family moved to Pennsylvania when Jeff was about 10 years old.
Jeff's passion for modeling started early. He estimated to me building over 1000 model kits in his life. This is based on his prolific building habits of his early years. He would spend his entire allowance each weekend at the 5-and-10 store for two 1/72nd scale models, build them up in a day, and fly combat with them to destruction by the end of the week. Then, buy two more the next weekend and start over. He said this happened 52 weeks a year for eight or nine years of his childhood. Doing the math, that is about 900 model kits built -- not too shabby -- all built with tube cement, a little paint, and sometimes even the decals.
He did not learn of real hobby shops until he lived in Pennsylvania. Finding them increased his potential for models to build. Constructing war-time scenarios for his models was a passion when he was young. He told me he once had an entire 1/72nd scale "bomber box" of B-17 hanging in scale formation from his bedroom ceiling. His BB gun was the flak shooting the formation until his parents caught wind of the situation. He and a friend would build ship models and float them out on the pond near his house, then attack them with BB guns. Strategically built into the models would be fire crackers so they could light the models and have them really explode. I remember him telling me (with glee in his eyes) of a Bismarck that they sank and how realistically it went down. It exploded, started to sink a little, then up-ended just like a real ship and slid into the water. When more fire was needed, they would squirt the models with gasoline from a water pistol. (I hope no young people are reading this ...). As he got older, the destructive streak subsided, fortunately.
Contracting diabetes in his early teens changed his life forever. His plans were always to enter the Army and fly helicopters. Diabetes stopped those plans. I do not think he ever fully recovered from this blow. He accepted the situation, but he spent most of the rest of his life simply drifting along with the flow of life where ever it took him. And, in the end, it was the diabetes that claimed him.
I met Jeff in 1981. He was 21, and I was 19. He was working as the manager of a hobby shop near my house. This was like having a wolf guard the sheep... We got talking about war gaming, which in those days involved game boards and small cardboard counters you moved about the boards. I met him at his house and we played "Dauntless". I was "flying" a couple P-38Ls against a couple of one of Jeff's favorite Japanese aircraft, the George. It was wild. I felt like I had actually flown after mentally following the "flight" of these cardboard counters on the game board. Jeff and I hit it off and started hanging out together a lot. "Squad Leader", "Up Scope", "Air War", and "Air Cobra" were other games we played extensively. He loved getting into the details of the games and writing his own scenarios, adjusting the rules for more realism, or combining games so that he could do things like using "Air War" jet aircraft to attack the tank columns in "Air Cobra".
Another of the things we did a lot together was play Frisbee. We'd play in my parent's backyard for hours. My Mom liked watching. Jeff actually convinced her to start playing, too. Jeff became like a son to her and a brother to me.
Jeff introduced me to all the things in modeling that I now take for granted. He taught me that seams on models are not supposed to be there and how to use filler to hide them. He introduced me to the idea that specific models were supposed to be painted in specific colors. He showed me that special companies made paints matched to these colors. He gave me my first air brush lesson on a Pasche external-mix air brush. I hated it. So, he convinced me to buy the more expensive Badger 150-IL at the hobby shop. I loved it, never looked back, and still use the Badger 150 to this day. He opened the door for me to the world of magazines that gave me more instruction on building models. He also took me to my first model club meeting. Wow, there were even more guys afflicted with this modeling bug!
Jeff was very detail-oriented in his modeling. He has had a couple "super-projects" on his back burner "forever" that just never seemed to get done. He would get caught up in the intricacies of the landing gear on the C-47, or the need to find good documentation on the bomb shackles in the bomb bay of a B-17. He labored for hours to find just the right RLM colors to match what he felt were the "correct" colors for his preferred subjects -- mid to late war German fighters -- specifically Bf 109s and Fw 190s. Our conversations got very cryptic -- "It is a 76 bottom with 74 and 75 on top and 02, 75, and 82 mottle on the sides." Say that line to the un-initiated and watch them go glassy-eyed...
Jeff's second passion was photography, and we traveled to air shows together to take pictures of aircraft. I took the pictures to document details for modeling. Jeff did this too, but also liked to get artistic with some of his photographs. The NAS Oceana show in Va Beach in 1981 was one of the first shows we attended together. We made a weekend trip out of it and rode the Loch Ness Monster a Buch Gardens on the same trip. He, like myself, preferred riding in the first seat on the train. Jeff helped me buy my first 35mm film camera. We used it on this trip and took pictures from upside-down in the loops on the Loch Ness Monster. Life was good.
We moved in together as roommates in 1984. It was a good deal for both of us, each getting to move out of our respective parents' house. We did not see as much of each other, though, because he had started working 2nd shift while I worked 1st shift. The only time we were both home during the week was when we were sleeping. Our model workroom was in the basement. My desk was on the left, his on the right. We would keep tabs on each other's modeling progress by watching each other's desks.
We moved apart when Jeff married in 1986, I was his best man at the wedding. We kept in touch, but now life was pulling us in different directions. His wife was in med school when they married and after she graduated, they moved to Alaska in 1993. He stayed up there for the 11 years. He would come back to PA for visits now and again. He was my best man when I got married in 1994. After his marriage broke up, he moved back to Pennsylvania in 2004. He lived with his sister for a while near where I live, then, when my downstairs apartment became available in 2007, he moved into it. Having him simply downstairs, we started playing Frisbee, again. Imagine two forty-something adults running and jumping in the backyard playing Frisbee. My kids thought it was "cool" (OK, maybe a little strange) to see Dad and "Uncle Jeff" doing their thing out back. Jeff encouraged my oldest son to start playing, just as he had my Mom so many years earlier.
Jeff's favorite place in the whole world was the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. We made multiple trips there together. He made still more on his own -- one was a marathon round trip 24 hours with no sleep -- 8 hours out, 8 hours in the museum, and 8 hours home. He calculated that he could do it and not miss work, and he was determined to try. Another particular trip, that I was smart enough to stay home on, had Jeff and our mutual friend David Vanderhoof making the trek to Ohio and walking the the outside display line of aircraft in sub-zero February winds. It was so cold that the temperature affected the film in their cameras, color-shifting the pictures they took outside. But, Jeff loved being there, cold or not. We were also traveling partners on a couple of the more recent IPMS National Conventions. We drove together, top down, in Jeff's Jeep Wrangler, all the way the Atlanta. Then a year later, we did it again, only it was top down in my VW Beetle, all the way to Kansas City. Of course, the Kansas City trip involved a one-day stop over at the Air Force Museum in Dayton...
The biggest thing Jeff taught me was his view of life. His words were "it is". Translated -- "If you can't change what something is or make any effect on a specific outcome, then IT IS -- accept it and move on." This is a profound concept, but one I have learned over the years is more right than wrong. I am really going to miss Jeff, but "it is".