Doris Harshaw, US President’s Service Award-Winning Volunteer

2 mins read
Barbara Jordan wearing sunglasses posing for the camera
Doris Harshaw celebrates her birthday at the Hollywood Bowl performance of Tina Turner, her favorite entertainer. Photo: Sheryl Turner

A good friend of Pasadena Media Foundation, Jennifer Darien Roquemore, recently lost her 94-year-old mother, Doris M. Harshaw, to old age.

Doris was a dedicated hospital worker all her life. Even in her retirement, she continued to serve her community, volunteering at local social service agencies and medical centers. Her approach to volunteer work was nothing short of a personal job, and her dedication was recognized with numerous awards and accolades, including several US President’s Volunteer Service Awards from President Obama and President George W. Bush.

Like many women of her generation, Doris was a master in the kitchen. Her apple dumplings and cornbread dressing were legendary, and her meals brought joy to many. She was also a meticulous gardener, tending to her roses and collard greens with love and care. She could crochet and sew and was quick with stories about her childhood. In her later years, Doris became everyone’s mother.

She also had a great sense of humor.

This is why, despite the grief, we had to smile as Jennifer recently recounted the five-week-long arduous journey of getting Doris to her final resting place in Springfield, Ohio, to be buried next to her beloved husband, Henri “Poppy” Harshaw.

As with most deaths, the element of surprise is overwhelming. Few of us are prepared financially or spiritually to deal with all the details, requirements, protocols and pastoral nuances of death. Because Doris died just after Thanksgiving, Jennifer had to navigate the holiday schedules of airlines, mortuaries, coroners, doctors and other public officials with oversight in transporting a body.

As Jennifer relates, time was passing, and the costs were mounting. The casket alone was more than $6,000. Late at night, as she stared at her computer, Googling for solutions, a pop-up ad announced: Free Nationwide Shipping. Guaranteed On-time Delivery.”

Was this a sign from Doris? Was she having a good laugh?

Jennifer clicked on the link and discovered the world of next-day metal and wood funeral caskets, headstones and coffins, all at discount prices.

It turns out is not the only online vendor. You can also shop,,, etc., replete with reviews, testimonials, and photos. Heck, you can even buy caskets at Costco, which features “an extended assortment of caskets and urns, and free shipping to the funeral home or your residence.”

Jennifer also learned that per federal law, all funeral homes are required to accept your independently purchased casket deliveries, “giving consumers the freedom to choose.”

And yes, there is a difference between a casket and a coffin. Unlike caskets, coffins have six sides instead of four. Plus, the top of the coffin is wider than its bottom. Coffins are tapered to conform to the shape of a human body. A coffin has a removable lid, while caskets have lids with hinges.

Jennifer also learned that per federal law, all funeral homes are required to accept your independently purchased casket deliveries, “giving consumers the freedom to choose.”

The exact casket Jennifer had chosen to purchase from the funeral home was there on the Web site, discounted to $1,400. So, after confirming all the details, she thanked Doris’ spirit for leading her in the right direction, as she had done all her life.

Doris Harshaw was a devoted wife, mother, grandmother and aunt. She leaves to cherish her precious memory: daughter Jennifer; grandchildren Joel, Tina, Bryan, and Cliff; great-grandchildren Dazhon, Ameera, and Amaiyah; and a host of cousins, nieces, nephews and extended family.

Rest in peace, Mother Doris. We were privileged to have known you.

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Sheryl Turner

Sheryl is Local News Pasadena's Publisher and Pasadena Media Foundation's Founder. When not saving local news, she devotes her spare time to finding the best meatloaf in town.
Email: [email protected]

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