Though he was a highly decorated officer, he was best known for his spirit of kindness and his excellent sense of humor.
In March 2013, Harrison was diagnosed with Lymphoma. Though he immediately began taking chemotherapy treatments, he had no intention of slowing down. Harrison kept right on working for close to two years after his diagnosis.
Unfortunately, the disease began to catch up to him at the end of 2014 when he was hospitalized for septic shock. This began a series of setbacks that carried through summer 2015, when a bone marrow biopsy revealed Harrison had developed a second form of cancer, leukemia. Being the fighter he was, Harrison and his doctors developed an aggressive plan to keep fighting, but the first round of chemotherapy they tried only caused the cancer to grow.
With the treatment options exhausted, Harrison and his wife, Teresa, came home in August to begin making arrangements for the future. The doctors gave Harrison about a month to live at this time, but he had a lot of work to do and memories to make.
“He had his sights set on Christmas,” said Harrison’s niece, Wendy Street. “He was determined to make it a special one for all of us.”
Over the next several months, Harrison made the most of every day. He traveled with family, shopped for Christmas gifts and attended several fundraising events organized in his honor.
“We were overwhelmed by the way this community embraced Bob and our family through all of this,” said Teresa Harrison. “We can’t say enough good things about the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office and the Lebanon Police Department for all of their support. The folks at Sara Cannon, Tennessee Oncology and Genitive Hospice were all like family to us, also. ”
Teresa Harrison also went on to thank Street, the Lebanon Roughnecks riding club and their friends at the Gun Room in Lebanon for all of their efforts in raising funds for the family.
September was a big month as Harrison accepted the prestigious “First Responder Award.” Teresa Harrison laughed as she remembered his first reaction when he learned he would be receiving the award.
“I can’t go to the governor’s mansion...I’m bald,” Teresa Harrison said her husband told her.
The following day, Harrison attended the 12th annual Sherry’s Run, where he was escorted into the event site by 12 squad cars as participants watched in silent tribute.
“Bob didn’t want that kind of attention for himself,” said Teresa Harrison. “He kept insisting that there were other people we should be focused on.”
In fact, when family friend, Pam Cooksey submitted the Harrisons’ names to Sherry’s Run for assistance, Bob Harrison was resistant. But, eventually friends and family were able to convince him that it was his turn for which to be cared. So, Sherry’s Run was able to assist them with utility bills, gas and groceries.
“It was such an honor to have the opportunity to assist Bob and Teresa through his battle,” said Tonyia Stockton, director of patient assistance for Sherry’s Run. “He truly was a class act and kept all of us smiling. He spent his life in service to others and we were grateful to be able to repay that in some small way.”
Bob Harrison also spent many of his last days ensuring his family, especially his wife, would be cared for.
“I find notes from him all over the house,” said Teresa Harrison. “He was truly a prince through it all.”
His last days were spent “holding court” for the many visitors who stopped by to tell funny stories and share happy memories. Bob Harrison died Feb. 14. Even on that day, with the help of the Cookseys, Bob Harrison was able to leave a special blessing for his wife in the form of a Valentine she opened just moments after his passing.
At his memorial service, colleague Steve Gatlin remembered him as a man who would go places no one else could go in order to serve. Many of the people Bob Harrison arrested even contacted the family wishing to make donations in his honor.
“He insisted on treating everyone he met with kindness and respect,” said Teresa Harrison.
As the family left the church to travel to the cemetery, they found the streets lined all the way with service vehicles from every office in Wilson County.
Now, several months later, Teresa Harrison serves as a volunteer in the patient assistance office at Sherry’s Run. She and Streets will also be volunteering at the event site Saturday.
“I didn’t know much about Sherry’s Run until this happened,” said Teresa Harrison. “Now, I’m amazed by their spirit of generosity. I see firsthand their attitude of how can we help?”
The 13th annual Sherry’s Run 5K Walk/Run will be dedicated, in part, to the memory of Lt. Bob Harrison and his life of service. It is slated for Saturday at 8 a.m. at 623 W. Main St. in Lebanon. Registration is open at sherrysrun.org.
Support allows Sherry’s Run to assist cancer patients 52 weeks a year with gas, groceries, utility bills, housing payments, prescription assistance, health insurance premiums, medical bills and colonoscopy assistance.
To learn more about Sherry’s Run, call 615-925-2592. To refer someone who might qualify for assistance, call 615-925-9932 or visit sherrysrun.org.