Myra Harrison (1915-2014)

Myra Harrison, co-founder of Harrison Industries, dies at age 99
Myra Harrison, co-founder of Harrison Industries, one of the nation’s oldest family-operated trash hauling firms and one of Ventura County's most generous benefactors, died Sunday at age 99.
Myra, was born Marina Velarde on Feb. 17, 1915 in Ventura, California one of 12 children of Francisca Moraga Velarde and Elias Velarde. Myra was proud of her Spanish heritage and so is her family. She was a direct descendent of Lt. Jose Joaquin Moraga, a member of the DeAnza party, which founded the San Buenaventura Mission.
Myra married E.J. Harrison and became a 15-year-old bride and two years later she became a mother and started a trash company with her husband in 1932. That year, E.J. fashioned a truck from several car bodies that he called “Chop Suey” and began making a modest living by hauling his neighbors’ trash to the Ventura dumps for 75 cents a load. In its first year of business, Harrison Transfer Company had 150 customers. Today, Harrison Industries services about 90,000 customers in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
Myra worked beside her husband to build the fledgling company, keeping the books and enrolling in classes at Ventura College to hone her business skills while raising her young family and being active in the community. Myra was a leader of the women’s movement decades before there was one.
When E.J. died in 1991, Myra became president and worked with four generations of Harrison family members that are involved in the day-to-day operations of the company. When Myra’s oldest son Ralph became president she remained as founder, while her other sons Jim and Myron continued to serve as vice presidents. Lynn and George Harrison, both grandsons, are also members of the board of directors, while other siblings have various important jobs in the comp.
Myra is survived by her daughter Janet Seamands and husband Al of Lander, Wyoming; sons all of Ventura County, Ralph Harrison and wife Jenny, Jim Harrison and wife Mary, Myron Harrison and wife Sharon; grandchildren and their spouses, Katherine Seamands, Mary Ann and Tony Hoyt,, Janet and Steve Iverson, Julia and Jeff Patrick, Lynn and Pattie Harrison, John and Letha Harrison, Richard and Lynn Harrison, Myra and SchlomoRackliff, Edward Harrison, Margaret and Sean Mattern, Kelly and Charles O’Dell, Kimberly and Alex Carriega, Kevin Curtis, Karin Guadagno, Kristin and Bill Millikin, Karisa and Larry Melendez, Sheryl and Donald Abeloe, Michael and Heather Harrison, Caren and Gary Carlsen, Daniel and Victoria Harrison, Donald Harrison, George and Danielle Harrison, Tom Harrison, Darren and Lisa Harrison, Judy and Willie Castillo. In addition, Myra is survived by 71 great grandchildren and 47 great-great grandchildren.
Myra was preceded in death by her beloved husband, E.J. Harrison, an infant daughter Myra Jane, grandson Tim Harrison, her parents, and all of her siblings.
While much as changed since 1932, Myra oversaw a company that kept up with the times and thrived over the years by offering superior customer service at reasonable rates, and by being on the forefront of the recycling movement in the state. All Harrison Industries customers are provided the opportunity to recycle over 20 different materials, which are taken to Gold Coast Recycling & Transfer Station where they are sorted, baled and recycled for use.
Harrison Industries also collects green waste materials and takes them to Agromin Premium Soil Products where they are processed and sold for reuse in agricultural products, fuel and landscape materials. And the future hold promise of making energy from the combination of green waste & commercial food waste. As a result of all of these programs Harrison franchise clients have surpassed recycling mandates of Assembly Bill 939, the 1989 state law that requires cities and counties to cut trash sent to landfills in half and are ready to meet all of the future mandates dealing with recycling and air emissions.
In addition, Harrison Industries has taken several steps toward reducing air pollution by opening the first liquefied natural gas fueling station in western Ventura County and gradually transforming its fleet of trucks to run on the cleaner burning compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas.
For its environmental efforts, Harrison Industries has won a number of environmental awards, including the 2011 Climate Change Action Award by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors and the 2010 Environmentally Conscious Business of the Year Award by the Ventura Chamber of Commerce.
And In 2007 Harrison was honored for having the state’s Outstanding Recycling Program by the California Resource Recovery Association. The award goes annually to the business, government agency, community-based organization or school in the state that has excelled in implementing and carrying out a recycling and/or diversion program.
And in the same year Former Assemblyman Pedro Nava honored Harrison as the California 35th Assembly District’s 2007 Small Business of Year. Also in 2007, the Pacific Coast Business Times selected Harrison Industries for its “Family Business Titans” category based on the high number of family members involved in the company as well as the company’s accomplishments, reputation and community involvement and in 2011 awarded Harrison Industries with its Legacy Award.
While building Harrison Industries over the years, Myra, E.J. and their sons remained committed to giving back to the communities the company served, providing longtime financial support of local non-profit organizations and community cultural events like the Ventura and Ojai Music Festival and the Camarillo Art and Jazz Festival, the Grant Park Conservancy, and the Rubicon Theatre. The company has been particularly generous to organizations that help children such as Casa Pacifica, the Boys Scouts of America and the Boys and Girls Clubs in several cities. And in 2013, the doors opened at the Harrison Family Youth Center, the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Ventura’s new clubhouse in Saticoy, where the company is headquartered.
Myra served as President of the American Business Women’s Association, was active in Native Daughter of the Golden West, the Ventura County Historical Society, Emblem Club, Los Californians, the Garden Club and the Ventura Chamber of Commerce.
In 2000 Myra was one of the only two people named as 75 Reasons We Love Ventura County by the Ventura Star. And in the article in her interview this is what she said. “My mother always said you never lose anything by helping other people. We believe in giving back to the community, with both our time and our money.” Myra also said, “Seven generations of my family have been a part of Ventura’s history, and I have had a wonderful life. Lots of hard times, but good. I am grateful for what I’ve been able to do.”
Myra, herself, won numerous awards through the years, and in 2003, she was named “Philanthropist of the Year for Ventura County” by the Association of Fundraising Professionals of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. In 2004, she was honored as “Trailblazer of the Year” by the Women’s Economic Ventures organization and was again honored in 2012 as a Titan for the group.
Also in 2004, Myra was named Humanitarian of the Year by the Ventura County Chapter of the American Red Cross and was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award by El Concilio del Condado de Ventura. The bilingual and bicultural non-profit agency cited her for the company’s long history of hiring Latino workers. She was the Ventura Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year in 2007.
Visitation will take place at the Ted Mayr Funeral Home, 3150 Loma Vista Road, Ventura. Please call for information 805-643-9977.
Rosary will be recited Friday, May 30, at 7 p.m. at the Ted Mayr Funeral Home.
A Mass of Christian burial will be Saturday, May 31, at 9 a.m. the San Buenaventura Mission, 211 E. Main Street, Ventura. A reception will follow in the Church Hall (O’Brien Hall). Interment will take place at Ivy Lawn Memorial Park, 5400 Valentine Road, Ventura, following the reception.
Arrangements are under the direction of the Ted Mayr Funeral Home, 3150 Loma Vista Rd., Ventura. Condolences may be left at