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Matriarch Mabelene Gwyn Harris Passes Away at 81


You have probably heard the saying, “Behind every successful man, there is a strong, wise, and hardworking woman.” For the Harris family, that was Mabelene Gwyn Harris. She was born on September 9th, 1939, in North Carolina and we are sad to report that Mrs. Harris passed away Friday, April 2, 2021, at the age of 81. On Monday, April 5th, 2021, a graveside service was held at 11 a.m. in Mountain Park Baptist Church’s cemetery. Reverend Tim Henderson officiated the service. 

“She was our bookkeeper at Harris Leather and Silverworks until she was 80,” says proud son Phil Harris. “My mother was a friend to all who knew her. She loved canning and reading. She and Ralph were married for 63 years. She was a wonderful mother and a great role model for our family.”

If it wasn’t for Mabelene, Harris Leather and Silverworks may have never happened. She began hand-tooling leather belts and purses in the 1960s. Mabelene and her husband, Ralph started Harris Leather & Silverworks at their kitchen table in Mt. Airy, North Carolina. She took her handiwork along when her husband, Ralph, Phil, and Eddie were going to open horse shows around North Carolina.

“The family started off doing the work for ourselves, and then other people started asking us about our leatherwork and, later, it slowly turned into a business that catered to other people and mainly the western pleasure crowd,” Mabelene told us when we interviewed her for an article about Harris Leather & Silverwork’s 50th Anniversary in 2018. 

NSBA Photo

Today, the business is still a family affair with several family members running different aspects. Mabelene and Ralph started the company, but with their sons, Phil and Eddie, they have turned it into one of the most respected saddle companies in the industry. Mabelene’s little leather business has grown into a business that employs about 30 people, including the silver shop, leather toolers, saddle makers, and bridle makers.

Mabelene is survived by Ralph D. Harris; two sons and daughters-in law, Phil and Phyllis Harris, Eddie and Robbin Harris; two grandsons, Preston and Mikayla Harris, Stanton and Kimberly Harris; two granddaughters, Mary Gwyn Harris and Alex Ratley, Victoria and Brandon Cox; two great-grandsons, Bennett Harris and Graham Harris; sister, Frances Sumner; several nieces and nephews.

GoHorseShow would like to send our condolences to the Harris Family during this difficult time. The family has requested, in lieu of flowers, memorials be made to Mountain Park Baptist Church, 325 Mtn. Park Rd. State Road, NC 28676. 

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