Pastor Linda Harris, 66, died Wednesday, Jan. 5, at Baylor All Saints Hospital in Fort Worth following a lengthy illness.
Born May 10, 1944, Harris worked for Kay Day Real Estate before becoming a minister. She was a nonbeliever and a motorcycle-riding “tough woman” who worked as a union rep at Frontier Airlines, friends said this week. But when her daughter was diagnosed with a terminal kidney disease, her life changed.
Friends said Harris sent her daughter to church alone several times before finally going with her. During the service that day, the preacher told those in the congregation to write down 10 things they wanted; Harris wrote that she wanted a healing for her daughter.
Shortly afterward, Harris’ daughter began to get well, and Harris herself had what friends say was an intense, personal experience that led to her conversion to Christianity. “God spoke to her and healed her daughter,” friends said.
That’s when Harris began her ministry, concentrating on reaching out to share God’s love with those who were most often forced to the fringes and left out by mainstream society.
Friends said Harris began by ministering to the homeless in Houston. She later co-founded Grace Fellowship in Christ Jesus, an LGBT church that held its early meetings in Oak Lawn but later moved to facilities on Westmoreland in Oak Cliff.
Harris also founded and was longtime pastor for Sanctuary of Love Church where, church members said, she created “a ministry for those no one else accepted, where love was unconditional. Because of that, people who wouldn’t be accepted anywhere else could go to Linda and feel love, and then they knew how to give love to other people.”
Harris also played a role in founding or helping develop other LGBT-affirming congregations in the area, and once spent six months ministering as an evangelist in South Africa as part of the Joan Wakeford Ministries.
Her final ministry was with Rainbow Ministries International, which she founded after leaving Sanctuary of Love. That church is now led by her successor, Pastor Alex Voss, and meets each Saturday at noon in the back building at 3917 Hall St. Voss said this week that the church has also developed a Web page, RainbowChurchTV.com, where videos of several of Harris’ sermons are now available.
Friends said this week that Dallas’ annual gay Pride parade was always one of Harris’ greatest pleasures, and that every year she built a float for the parade she won a trophy. They described her as an “extremely loving and caring and totally genuine person” who was known and loved by people from all over the world.
Her sister, Kay Day, said this week that whenever anyone asked Harris how she was feeling, she always responded, “I am blessed and highly favored.” Day also said that two days before she died, a man came to visit Harris and told her that he had been homeless, but because the pastor allowed him to sleep in her church, he was able to turn his life around. As the man left, Day said, Harris told him, “If you need me, just call me.”
Day said her sister “helped so many people who had AIDS and were disowned by their parents. She stayed with them, and she conducted their funerals.”
Harris is survived by her partner, Janice LaCount; her daughter and son-in-law, Monica Harris and Kevin Coble; her granddaughter, Sara Grace Coble; her sisters and brothers-in-law, Betty and Jon Barnett and Kay Day and James Peebles, all of Fort Worth; and by her dog, Blossom.
Funeral services will be held Saturday, Jan. 8, at 11:30 a.m. at Greenwood Chapel, 3100 White Settlement Road (at University Drive) in Fort Worth. A viewing will be held Friday, Jan. 7, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Greenwood Chapel.
The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations in Harris’ name be made to Janice LaCount Ministries, 3917 Hamilton Ave., Fort Worth, Texas 76107. Personal remembrances can be shared on Pastor Harris’ Facebook page.
Barry earned a B.S. in psychology from the University of Texas at Austin and an M.S. in clinical psychology from the University of North Texas, and was a licensed professional counselor. He worked for many years as a psychotherapist at Oaklawn Community Services before joining a private practice, Turtle Creek Mental Health.
He was active in a number of local organizations, and was well known in the psychotherapy community. He was also known by his friends and family for his wit, kindness and warmth, as well as his fondness for movies, music and theater.
Barry was preceded in death by his parents, Captain George and Britt Barry of Arlington.
He is survived by his sisters, Linda Bennett and husband, Rob, and Carolyn Lytle and husband, Dave; three nephews, one niece, many loving friends and by the clients whose lives he touched as their therapist.
A memorial service was held Wednesday, Jan. 5, at Arlington Funeral Home Chapel. Donations in his name may be made to the Point Foundation or Love Out Loud Scholarship Funds.
He was born in Lewistown and raised in Bradenton, Fla., and had been a Dallas resident for 33 years.
After graduating from Florida State, Bloom entered Union Seminary in Charlottesville, Va., and was chosen to spend a year at Presbyterian Seminary in Montpielier, France.
He became the chaplain of Presbyterian students at Vanderbilt University and then became chaplain of Presbyterian students at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
After three years, Bloom went to work for the education wing of the World Council of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland, and traveled all over the world giving seminars on literacy programs. Three years later, he began working for the United Nations and was assigned to the French Committee for Refugees in Paris where he worked with refugees from the wars in Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.
He returned to the World Council of Churches and was assigned to Madrid for several years.
In 1977, Bloom returned to Dallas and worked at The Bronx on Cedar Springs until he and a partner started Frontroom Gallery in 1981. In 1999, he began working part-time at Nuvo until he started full retirement in 2007.
Bloom was an accomplished weaver, photographer and writer.
He is survived by his brother and sister-in-law, Joe and Marie Bloom of Etowah, N.C.; cousins Linda Smalley of Atlanta, Ga., and Frances Ware of Mechanicsberg, Penn.; and many friends.
There will be a reception for his friends at The Bronx, 3835 Cedar Springs Road, on Wednesday, Jan. 12 at 5:30 p.m.
Born in Conroe, Texas, DeCock graduated Conroe High School in 1982. He then joined the U.S. Army and was stationed in Germany. In the Army, he began training and started a rewarding and successful career in computer engineering, eventually working for Texas Instruments, Microsoft Corporation and, most recently, Paladin and Northrup Grumman.
DeCock had a passion for family, friends and the latest computer and software technology and the home he shared with his husband was filled with laughter, late-night dinner parties and many electronic gadgets.
DeCock was preceded in death by his parents, Harry Hypoliet DeCock and Peggy Darlene Hilton DeCock.
He is survived by his husband, Richard Lindley; their dear friend and neighbor, Helen P. Fielden, and their dog, Jack Everett. He is also survived by a brother and two half brothers from the Houston area.
In lieu of flowers, donations in DeCock’s honor should be made to Resource Center Dallas’ AIDS programs or the SPCA of Texas.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 7, 2011.