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Colleagues mourn the loss of Junior Harris

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DUNCAN, Okla._He was a man who exuded happiness and touched lives everywhere he went. Now, two communities in our area are mourning the loss of a leader and a friend whose life ended too soon.

Junior Harris, 45, died Monday afternoon when his car struck a culvert near the intersection of Highway 81 and Osage Road in Duncan. Harris was the membership director of the Lawton Family YMCA for ten years before becoming the executive director for the Simmons Center in Duncan.

This is no doubt a devastating loss to both communities as co-workers past and present reflect on not just the privilege of working with a man who put the people around him first, but to gain a true friend who was passionate about his work.

"You know, I think just so many people had done things for him that he wanted to give back."

Cindy Reynolds, with Duncan's Simmons Center, says it was clear Junior found his true happiness when he was handing out joy and help to others.

"He was always smiling, he was always encouraging people, he was a friend to all. He was always talking to the kids and coaching and mentoring them. He would go as a camp counselor and he would share his story with kids and they would open up to him," said Reynolds.

Harris had been the executive director for the Simmons Center for the past seven years, a position that colleagues say was a dream job for him. Before that, he worked as the membership director for the Lawton Family YMCA, the same smile and aura left an impact that's still fresh on the minds of those who worked with him.

"He was probably one of the happiest people I ever knew. What you really think about a person, with Junior, is just happiness. Just always smiling," said Carl Rankin, former executive director for the Lawton Family YMCA.

Harris leaves behind a family that he cared for so deeply, a wife and two sons, De ‘Vante and Javon, who played football for the OU Sooners. For those who saw his smiling face everyday at work, Harris will always be remembered as so much more.

"It's a small community so he wasn't just the director of the Simmons Center, he was our friend. We'd see him out on the street and at events and he was a great guy,” said Reynolds.

"He would say ‘I'll do anything here but I'm not getting in the swimming pool!’ Junior didn't like swimming. He was just so funny and so joyful and the happiness that he brought to so many lives will dearly be missed," said Rankin.

Monday's tragic accident is still under investigation, Duncan police say they still aren't sure what caused Harris' car to veer off the roadway. Meanwhile, Harris' family has not released any information on funeral arrangements just yet.

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