He heard the call for deaf as well

Paul M. Harris
Paul M. Harris
Posted: August 06, 2012

In the late 1970s, a United Methodist pastor in Delaware County felt his career-long hearing problem beginning to worsen.

So, in 1981, the Rev. Paul M. Harris retired from Hancock United Methodist Church in Springfield.

He then founded and helped to run DELHOH - Delaware County Hard of Hearing - and later a similar organization in Lebanon County, Pa., to inform about and advocate for people like him.

On Tuesday, July 24, Mr. Harris, 96, a full-time Methodist pastor in Delaware County for 30 years and a part-time pastor from 1981 until 1990, died at Cornwall Manor, a retirement community in Lebanon.

"He really was a pioneer," daughter Sharon Brucker said.

After the Hearing Loss Association of America was formed, she said, Mr. Harris' groups became two of its chapters.

In 1988, the pastor began weekend retreats known as Fall Getaways for Deaf and Hard of Hearing, to the Poconos and Lancaster County. His daughter said the events were offered for 10 years.

In 2006, the Hearing Loss Association of Pennsylvania gave him its Marcia Finisdore Award for Advocacy.

Born in Pen Argyl, Northampton County, Mr. Harris graduated from Pen Argyl High School in 1933 and from Bethlehem (Pa.) Business College in 1935.

He earned a bachelor's degree at what is now Asbury University in Wilmore, Ky., in 1941 and a master of divinity degree at Drew Theological Seminary in Madison, N.J. in 1944.

"He started serving churches even before he left Drew," his daughter said, and after becoming a deacon in the Philadelphia Conference of the Methodist Church in 1943, he was ordained an elder in 1945.

Before beginning his Delaware County ministry, he was a pastor in Catasauqua and Steelton.

From 1952 to 1961, Mr. Harris was pastor at Eddystone Methodist Church, and then until 1969 at Mount Zion Methodist Church in Darby Borough.

After a 1968 merger formed the United Methodist denomination, he was named pastor in 1969 at Hancock.

"He had always been hard of hearing," his daughter said, "but it grew much worse in the 1970s.

"That's when this began," she said of DELHOH, because it was "from his own need that he became more aware of the needs for others."

Sophisticated technology was only beginning to emerge, she said, and many people needed information.

DELHOH did not have an office, she said, but Mr. Harris and his wife, Jane, "did mailing lists out of their home office," while meetings "were held in churches around the county."

After his full-time ministry, Mr. Harris was a part-time pastor at Crozerville United Methodist Church in Aston from 1981 to 1988 and a visiting pastor at St. Mark's in Broomall until 1990.

He and his wife then moved to Cornwall Manor, at that time a community for Methodist ministers but now open to all.

In 1990, he founded LEBHOH, an organization similar to the one in Delaware County.

Besides his daughter and wife of 57 years, Mr. Harris is survived by son David; daughters Priscilla Yagel, Joanna Stewart, and Deborah; seven grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

A visitation was set from 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 5, at Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, 1500 Quentin Rd., Lebanon, Pa., with a memorial service set for 2:30 and a luncheon to follow.


Contact Walter F. Naedele at 215-854-5607 or wnaedele@phillynews.com.

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