By Angelica Ingram
Published in County Life March 9 2017
It’s no surprise when you contact Maggie Harris to set up an interview she’s busy painting at radio station Canoe FM.
Harris is not at the community radio station because she’s getting paid but because it’s just one of her many passions and a way to give back to the place she calls home.
Originally from Windsor Harris has been calling Haliburton home for more than a decade and there’s no place she’d rather live.
She moved to the Highlands from Unionville where she ran a successful party supply business for many years.
“I did big venues corporate stuff” she said about her party business. “I did the grand opening of the Skydome. I did movie sets … and then I had a storefront. At the end I just couldn’t do it anymore.”
The party business also involved intricate and elaborate balloon displays including a larger than life dragon she built for the grand opening of Pacific Mall in Markham. Harris and her staff worked around the clock for three weeks to get the dragon which measured approximately 100 feet finished on time for the opening.
Now Harris 68 is officially retired however she spends her days volunteering fishing and running a bed and breakfast.
“I love to fish winter or summer” she said. “I’ll say ‘I’m going fishing dear be back at dark thirty.’”
When her and her husband Art Latimer moved to the area full-time Harris connected with Community Care (now HHHS Community Support Services) to give her time helping seniors in the area.
“I’ve always had a soft spot for seniors” she said. “They really are special they’re just so full of stories and wisdom. They’ve lived full lives and they’ve got a lot to give.”
She traces this deep love and appreciation for seniors back to taking care of her parents until they passed away.
Harris loves to spend time with seniors whether it’s visiting with them shopping for them or taking care of strange requests.
She had one particularly odd request come from a British lady who was hoping Harris could get her some lamb fries.
“She says ‘they’re lamb’s testicles. You cook them up and they’re called lamb fries’” said Harris. “So I called the butcher in Little Britain and he actually knew what they were … so I started going to Lindsay and getting these lamb fries and cooking them up for her. She’s passed since and I still have a freezer full of them … they are actually good.”
During her years in Haliburton she has gotten involved with Canoe FM performs in a local band known as The Two-Bit 3some (which recently played for a YWCA fundraiser) and continues taking care of seniors who have now become her good friends.
“I play a lot of music and wherever I’m needed I go” she said. “I just feel like I’m here on this earth to be a blessing to people.”
Her band frequently plays at the long-term care homes in the county which Harris says is about more than just performing a few tunes.
“I just love walking in there because they know they’re going to have fun. They just want someone to talk to” she said.
A young senior at heart Harris has no shortage of energy often seen at concerts or donning a chicken suit (a keepsake from her party business days) and taking part in the Haliburton Polar Bear Plunge which she did a few years ago.
“You never know when you’re going to need a costume” she jokes.
Harris started to run a bed and breakfast at her home on Peninsula Road because she loves people. She gets a lot of repeat clientele many of whom take summer courses at the Haliburton School of Art and Design.
“It’s just like grand central station” she said. “A lot of them are regulars … they bring the wine and take over the kitchen and cook dinner for everyone. It’s fun! I take them out on the boat and they come back every summer. I love my B and B.”
Senior Spotlight is brought to you by CARP Haliburton Highlands Chapter 54. CARP is a national association whose mission is to protect and advance the interests of Canadians as we age. Your Haliburton Highlands chapter is actively working to bring additional value to your membership at the local level.