Darrell Wayne Harrison, former Director of the Roper Mountain Science Center, passed away September 28, 2020, at his home in Travelers Rest. He was born in Wayne County, Illinois, on August 2, 1936, the youngest of five children of Vern and Ruby Harrison of Fairfield, Illinois.
After graduating from high school, when his father asked what he intended to do next, he followed in his older brother’s footsteps and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force at St. Louis in November 1954. He served as a flight crew radio operator in the Military Air Transport Service and flew missions out of Maine, Guam and Japan. Upon his discharge in 1958 he used his G.I. Bill to attend Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois. At SIU he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in design – and met his future wife Georgia. Their two sons, Paul, and Birch were born in Carbondale. The family lived on a small farm with a menagerie of animals. Darrell worked as a curator and then interim Director of the University Museum until 1978, when the family moved to Charlotte where he ran the Children’s Nature Museum and worked on the Discovery Place project.
In 1983, he was hired as the Director, to give life to the concept that would become the Roper Mountain Science Center. The family moved to Travelers Rest. Working with an incredibly dedicated staff and visionary community partners, the Science Center came to life step by step – adding educational buildings, a planetarium, an observatory, and Living History Farm over the course of his two plus decades as director.
In retirement, he perfected his wood working skills, using his rebuilt lathe to create bowls and other wood products that were treasured gifts of family and friends. On the board of the Soil & Water Conservation District from 2006 to 2014, he used his water quality monitoring trips in the mountains as an excuse to fly fish whenever possible. Darrell Harrison was a beloved husband, father, grandfather and friend. He will be sorely missed.
He is survived by his wife, Georgia, their sons and families: Paul and Liz Harrison, daughter Zia and sons Asher and Ian; and Birch and Lynne Harrison and daughters Sarah, Caroline and Anna. He is also survived by an extended family of nephews and nieces, as well as his brother-in-law Charles “Bud” Butler.