Helen Jean Harris, a longtime Santa Ana resident, passed on Feb. 24, 2020 at age 92 after years of declining health. In the early 1950s Mrs. Harris and her late husband Dawson were among the huge numbers of US Marine Corps families who flocked to Orange County to staff MCAS El Toro and MCAS Tustin. A proud native of Birmingham, Alabama, the former Helen Jean Duke--commonly known as "Jean"--was still a teenager when in the latter stages of the war when she became a civilian employee at Marine Corps headquarters in Washington D.C. It was there that she would later meet Dawson, a survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the battle of Okinawa, who would later become the paymaster at El Toro. As a young family, the Harrises bought into a new tract in northeast Santa Ana with such "Semper Fi" appeal that nearly half of their neighbors on Catalina Avenue were Marine families as well. Their children Linda, Dawson Jr. ("Dusty") and Scott attended Santa Ana public schools before earning degrees at Cal State Fullerton. Following Dawson's death at age 81, Mrs. Harris lived on Catalina until her fading health required 24-hour care. News of her passing inspired Catalina's cohort of aging "Marine brats" and their civilian friends to share memories of her kindness. In addition to her three children, she is survived by Dusty's wife Nancy; Scott's wife Oanh, and their three children Luke Minh, Quynh Helen and Khai Dawson Harris. Mrs. Harris will be interred with Dawson at Riverside National Cemetery.
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