Blog Entries - Jan. 2021
On January 2, our Chamber lost an advocate and friend. Gerri Harbison had been a part of this Chamber from its inception. She saw the value in local businesses having a unified voice to represent them. And, true to her nature, she put her all into it.
At different times Gerri was a Board member; Membership Committee chair; Vice President; President; and most recently, Events Committee chair. I think most of us, though, will remember Gerri from her presence at the registration table for events. Who will ever forget her smiling face, welcoming you to a Chamber meeting, with your nametag already completed? If you were new to our Chamber, you not only received a warm welcome and nametag, but also questions about you and your business and introductions to other members. Gerri wanted to make sure that you never felt alone.
Gerri was always pushing this Chamber to do and be its best. She recommended that we take over the corn booth at the Independence Day Festival when it the Police and Fire departments could not staff it – but made sure that they were still represented. It was Gerri who organized two strategic planning retreats so that our Board could create a vision for the future and a mission statement. Gerri also worked tireless to recruit the major businesses and individuals to join our Chamber.
Gerri, along with Scott Reynolds and Derek Tye, hired me to lead our Chamber seven years ago. She was more than helpful. I could always count on Gerri to lend whatever support she could; provide me with any inside information I might need; and nudge me every time I needed it. I do not think she ever offered criticism without also offering a solution and compliment. She was such a store of knowledge on all things Montgomery and freely shared it.
Gerri was my friend as much as much she was my mentor. She always made sure that I had flowers for my birthday. When my father became ill and died 10 days later, she took everything needed for events and sent me funny videos of her and others setting up and taking down. Mom and I got quite a laugh out of those. When my Orpheus died in September, Gerri brought dinner for us. She checked on us nearly every day when my son tested positive for COVID and had to be isolated. Her mixture of concern and dry wit was something I never want to forget.
Gerri was not someone who sought attention, and I think that she would be embarrassed by all of this. She would graciously thank us but say that she was not doing anything special. Then she would tell us to go do something and don’t screw it up.
In memory of Gerri, call someone you have not spoken to in a while. Do it today and make that connection. Snuggle your pets and compliment those you see. Get dinner from a local restaurant. And, at the end of the day, raise a glass in thanks to all she did and was to all of us.