Spencer Harrison; Shared His Gift Of Song

Posted: July 18, 1994

Spencer Russell Harrison, a professional singer who shared his talents with his church and friends, died Tuesday of natural causes. He was 32 and lived in South Philadelphia.

Harrison's career encompassed all forms of contemporary music from rhythm and blues to jazz to pop. He was an accomplished "session" musician and excelled as a lead singer and as background. Besides solo recordings, he collaborated with with such artists as Jean Carne, Mikki Howard, Grover Washington Jr., Teddy Pendergrass, Stanley Clarke, Patti LaBelle and Norman Connors, among a long list.

He had been a member of the All Philadelphia Boys Choir, with which he had toured worldwide. He attended the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts and graduated from the Overbrook High School Music Magnet Program. Harrison later attended the University of Miami where he majored in music.

Harrison once remarked that he wanted to "make music that is current, yet timeless."

But what may be remembered in his South Philly neighborhood longer than his music was his caring heart. He spent some of his spare time teaching adults to read and other times would just sit on the step and read to neighborhood children to entertain and educate them.

His mother, the former Eunice Spencer, who was a professional singer before she married, said it wasn't unusual for children to come to the door and ask if Harrison "could come out and play." She laughed. "Like he was a little kid."

"He touched a lot of people's lives, not only through his music," she said.

She said her son would go out of his way to sing at funerals or other events, giving his talents away to accommodate friends. He also had been a member of the Agape Choir and Celestial Choir of Bright Hope Baptist Church, of which he had been a member since the early 1980s.

He loved sacred music, said his mother, and had hoped to one day devote more of his time to it.

About 10 years ago, Harrison went to live with his grandmother, Corine Spencer, with whom he was very close. He wanted to be there to help her during her last four years when she was bed-ridden, said his mother. She died last April at age 98.

Harrison, said his mother, "wasn't at the top of the ladder in the industry, but he was always trying to lend a helping hand to others who were coming up."

"His spirit was a good spirit," she said.

Survivors also include two sisters, Parris Hafiz and Nadine Harrison, and a brother, Mark Harrison.

Services will be held at 8 p.m. tomorrow at Bright Hope Baptist Church, 12th Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue, where friends may call two hours before the services. A musical tribute will be held from 7 to 7:45 p.m.

Burial will be in Rolling Green Memorial Park, Route 202 and Route 3, West Chester.

JOAN M. SKORKO

Joan M. Skorko, a former teacher at St. Teresa's School in Runnemede, N.J., died Friday. She was 61 and lived in Chews Landing, N.J.

Skorko taught Catholic education at the school for 18 years. She also was a member of the choir, the Legion of Mary, the altar and rosary societies, and was a Eucharistic minister at St. Teresa. She also was a member of the St. Lucia Choir of St. Joseph's Church, Camden, for 35 years.

She was the former Joan Wisniewski.

Survivors include her husband, Joseph J. Skorko; three sons, William, David and James; a daughter, Judith; her mother, Mary Wisniewski; a brother, Stanley; two sisters, Lorraine Wolski and Dianne Puhala, and one grandchild.

Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Teresa's Church, 13 E. Evesham Road, Runnemede. Friends may call at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Gardner Funeral Home, 126 S. Black Horse Pike, Runnemede.

Burial will be in St. Joseph's Cemetery in Chews Landing. Contributions may be made to the church.

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