Washer tourney to honor fallen VFD chief

by Cristin Parker cristin@thecherokeean.com

“Betcha I can toss this here washer into that oil can over yonder.” That’s how the International Association of Washer Players website figures how the time-honored game of washer pitching might have started.

Cherokee County residents will get the chance to present their pitching prowess, enjoy lunch and get to know their neighbors at the Clifford Harris Memorial Fund’s inaugural Washer Tournament and Remembrance Gathering from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, June 29, at the Rusk Fire Department substation, on State Highway 110 in Rusk.

“We’re extremely excited to be able to put this on,” event co-organizer Marisa Boykin said. “And teams are still being accepted, so we’re encouraging everyone who wants to show off their skills at washer pitching to get registered.”

Contact Boykin, cliffordharris.memorial@gmail.com, to register for the tournament. Entry fee is $50 for each team of two. Winning team will receive $100 cash prize. Games of 42 will also be played. Lunch plates of hamburger or hot dogs with chips will be available for $5. Door prizes will also be given away.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Boykin’s father Rusk Fire Department Chief Clifford Harris’ line of duty death (LODD).

The Remembrance Gathering is being held to honor the late Harris’s life.

“We want to bring the community he loved so dearly along with friends, family and surrounding departments together to join us for this special event,” fund organizers stated on social media. “Cake will be served in honor of Clifford’s 75th birthday, which was this past March.”

According to a release from the organization, Clifford R. Harris was born and raised in the Rusk area.

He served the Rusk Volunteer Fire Department for 20 years, one month and 24 days before his death in the line of duty on June 28, 1994.

At the time of his death he serviced as chief of his department. Clifford was involved in many activities to upgrade his department over the years including obtaining the Jaws of Life and a vehicle in which to carry the Jaws. When Rusk built a new station in 1980, he spent many long hours there painting the interior of the new station.

The honor of Fireman of the Year was bestowed on him several times during his tenure with the department. In 1995, Chief Harris was honored by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation at Memorial Weekend in Emmitsburg, Md. His name also appears on the statue honoring volunteer firefighters in Austin.

The Clifford Harris Memorial Fund is set up to equip East Texas volunteer fire departments in Anderson, Cherokee, Henderson and Rusk counties by providing small equipment for fire fighting and/or department upkeep.

Event organizers said this year’s Memorial donation recipient is to be the Rusk Volunteer Fire Department. Since 2014, the organization has provided donations of equipment to Gallatin, Lake Palestine, Jackson Heights, Gun Barrel City, Southside Henderson County and North Cherokee volunteer fire departments.