Cora Mae Rueckert Harrison, Bel Air businesswoman, avid promoter for downtown businesses, supporter of the arts community and civic activist for many years, died Friday, January 25 at her Bel Air home. She was 88.
Cora knew early in her life what she wanted to do when she grew up. Her favorite experience was taking the train from her suburban Chicago home to the downtown mecca of retailing, the Marshal Field’s iconic department store. That’s where she always wanted to work, and she realized her dream.
Cora was born in Berwyn, IL, and spent her early years in Cicero where her father owned a trucking company. The family, now consisting of her two older sisters and younger brother, later moved to the city of Riverside which had a direct train line to Chicago’s loop and her favorite store.
She managed to become a member of the store’s student advisory board during her high school years and after graduation enrolled at Syracuse University’s business school (she was the only woman in her class), later transferring to Indiana University Bloomington where she received her degree in marketing. She was hired as an assistant buyer and department manager at Marshall Field’s; her dream came true.
That changed when she met and married George F. Harrison, Jr, an editor at the Chicago office of the United Press International news service, and his transfer to the UPI New York office. The couple, now with a young son, Stephen, later moved to Greenwich, CT, A second child, Jeffery, died at six months, and the couple later adopted one month old Deborah.
Cora’s retailing dream was revived when her husband decided to return home and take over the family paint and decorating business. She was now inspired to put her ideas to work by opening an unfinished furniture and wicker store. She later expanded into hand-made decorations, quilting fabrics, art supplies and picture framing. At one point she had five stores going including the new Harbor Place in Baltimore, North Plaza Mall in Parkville and Bel Air’s Tollgate Town Center as well as the Main St. store.
But that was not all. She organized street fairs on Main St., was a member of Bel Air Arts Council, board member of the Rockfield Foundation, and was leader in the failed effort to preserve the old Bel Air Theater as a theater arts center.
Cora retired from her businesses in 2000 but continued to sell her hand-made items at craft fairs and on the internet until her health deteriorated.
She is survived by her husband of 62 years, son Stephen Harrison, of Mukalteo, WA, and daughter Deborah Harrison of Bel Air; grandchildren, Alec Harrison, Nicholas Harrison, Emma Harrison, Erin Antoshak and Kelly Antoshak.
Services are private. Memorial contributions may be made to Macular Degeneration Research.