Aphrodite Harris – Celebration of Life

Sun, Feb 5, 2023 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm




For those who had planned to send flowers, we ask that you instead you consider making a donation to the Wild Bird Trust of B.C., a non-profit which manages the Maplewood Flats bird sanctuary in North Vancouver. As an avid bird watcher, Aphrodite spent many afternoons enjoying the ducks, herons and chickadees found throughout the wooded area.

Please click on this link if you wish to donate: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/wbt-wild-bird-trust-of-british-columbia/
–click on arrow next to the “General” box on the right-hand side –select “In memory of Aphrodite Harris,”

Aphrodite Harris – Brief Biography

Aphrodite was born in 1943 and grew up in North Plainfield, New Jersey, close enough to be counted as a suburb of New York City. Her mother was of southern Italian descent and her father a Greek immigrant from Cyprus. Growing up in a predominantly white and upper-middle class community she felt somewhat out of place as a dark girl of working-class background and tended to identify with other people who found themselves at a social disadvantage. When, in high school, she protested in class to one of her teachers who was continuously abusive to the only black student in class she was expelled from the class and made to stand for a long time in a corridor as a punishment. Aphrodite was proud of this and never apologized.

Feeling somewhat isolated in North Plainfield, she took every opportunity offered by her school to visit museums and drama in New York City. She developed a special interest in art and opera.

Later she got a bit further from home through a scholarship at the Unversity of Buffalo. Female house rules were rather strict in those days. She and an enterprising roommate would sneak out at night to attend plays and concerts. She completed two years but early on in the third she dropped all her courses, on the advice of the Dean, because she had just gotten married to a graduate student. That was me. I think we first became aware of our affinity by discovering that we both admired Fidel Castro. Aphrodite dropped her courses because this was the early sixties when everyone, including us, expected that the husband would make the living and the woman would be domestic. By the later sixties, things were changing.

Three years later, when I found employment at a new and exciting university called Simon Fraser, we got ourselves and our first child, Elektra, registered as landed immigrants in Canada. Aphrodite soon became enthisiastic about living in Canada; both of us were especially impressed with the socialized medical system, and she wanted both of us to become Canadian citizens as soon as possible, which we did.

After we had two more children, Nikos and Sophia, Aphrodite decided that she wanted to complete her interrupted BA at Simon Fraser. After doing that, she had shown so much interest in the children’s department of the North Van City Library that she was offered a job there to work in the evening, and was delighted to take it. Since this meant that I would be responsible for supper I took a course called “Cooking for Men” offered at night in the domestic science room of the local high school. Fortunately, my children were quite tactful about the results. For me, this was a very educational period.

At the library Aphrodite initiated a project called “Pajama Story Time.” Early in the evening children would be brought in in their pajamas to hear her tell a story after which they they would be wisked home to bed. Aphrodite’s dramatic narrations attracted quite a large pajama-clad audience. I think it was this experience that gave her a passion for library work.

During this period her political interests also developed. She strongly supported the unionization of library workers; she became shop steward and strongly supported a municipal workers strike, After two years in the North Van. Library she decided that library work would be her career and, with some regret, left the North Van. Library to pursue a degree in Master of Library Science at UBC. This was another new and interesting period in our lives. She graduated in 1985.

After casual work at a number of libraries, she settled on a permanent commitment to the library at King Edward Campus, in which she was particularly interested because at that time KEC was strongly dedcated to educating immigrants—maintaining a high-powered ESL program, and assisting immigrant students in their academic work. Working with immigrant students became her passion; she gave frequent seminars on how to use a library.

Eventually she became Campus Librarian and remained with KEC until her retirement. After retirement she returned to the North Van Library, assisting with ordering books for their move to a new and larger bulding.

Aphrodite was deeply interested in the struggle of the aboriginal people for reparation. For a couple of years she did volunteer work with the downtown Native Education Centre to help them build their library. She was fascinated by indigenous writers and sought to interest library patrons in their work. She was also interested in Canadian literature and art in general, especially the fiction of Margaret Laurence and the art of Emily Carr. She supported liberal organizations was a great admirer of the writings of Naomi Klein. We both did work for the NDP.

Feeling the need for a spiritual community she took the lead in inspiring us to become Unitarians. She became passionately comitted to this church and for some years served as chair of the church library committee. It has been a privilege to have been the partner of such an outgoing and warm-hearted person, with such a strong interest in people and progressive ideas.


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