Charles H. Harrison, 84, Was Longtime Gardener

Posted: April 13, 1994

Charles Howard Harrison, 84, whose lifelong love of gardening included raising banana trees in South Jersey, died Sunday at West Jersey Hospital- Marlton.

Mr. Harrison, a resident of the Masonville section of Mount Laurel for 50 years, was raised on his family's dairy farm in a town by the same name, Masonville, N.Y., before moving to South Jersey.

His love affair with gardening started while he was still in high school, when he got free seedlings from the government and created a small pine forest on a hillside to help stem erosion, said his son, Chuck Harrison of Farmington, N.M.

"He was always interested in the unusual (in gardening)," his son said. Even his 1938 degree from Cornell University was out of the ordinary - it was in floriculture, the cultivation of flowers.

His experiments with tropical plants grown in South Jersey's less-than- tropical conditions began with the elephant-ear plant, and expanded in the late 1960s or early 1970s to include banana trees.

Mr. Harrison planted his first banana tree, from a cutting acquired in Key West, Fla., on the grounds of the Locust Lane Dairy, Moorestown, where he was working at the time. When the dairy closed in 1969, he moved the tree to his yard on Garnet Avenue, in Masonville. Later, he would plant banana trees at Masonville United Methodist Church, where he was a member, and at the Burlington County Trust Co., now the First Fidelity Bank in Moorestown, where he worked as a security guard for 15 years.

The banana tree in front of the bank reached a height of 12 feet and weighed in at 200 pounds. Mr. Harrison would dig the trees up each fall and move them into his cellar for the winter. And yes, the trees produced bananas that, although small, were tasty, his son said.

Mr. Harrison also grew vegetables, especially Jersey sweet corn and lots of flowers. His favorites were red roses.

In addition to his son, Chuck, Mr. Harrison is survived by his wife of 55 years, Louise Quimby Harrison; three daughters, Eleanor Marie Kurun of Delran, Martha Ann Banski of Palmyra and Carol Ruth Hall of Marietta, Ga.; 13 grandchildren; six great-grandchildren, and two sisters, Edna Hatton of New Castle, Del., and Alta Bickford of North Port, Fla.

Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. today at Masonville United Methodist Church, 200 Centerton Rd., Mount Laurel. A viewing was held last night at the Lewis Funeral Home, Moorestown. Burial will be in Coopertown Cemetery in Edgewater Park.

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