My brother is an excellent example of the importance a positive attitude has in one’s life

My brother is an exceptional role model for how to handle severe adversities in one’s life

Dolph L. Hatfield, Ph.D.

Photo by Kylo on Unsplash

My brother is facing two major adversities in his life, either one of which would likely depress others. His remarkable attitude has kept him from suffering depression and is enabling him to maintain a positive outlook on life.

A person’s attitude is one of the principal factors governing how they conduct their lives. My brother, Harris, exemplifies the role a positive attitude can play in avoiding depression or other significant personality change when faced with severe adversity.

About 10 years ago, Harris’ wife, Kay, began developing dementia. This disorder has progressed and now Kay has times, when she recognizes Harris and other members of their family, but she often does not recognize anyone.

In July 2018, Harris lost about 90% of his vision from occlusions in his carotid arteries. Although he has had excellent medical care, the likelihood of him recovering any of his vision is poor at best.

I can only imagine that the onset of dementia in one’s deeply loved partner or the loss of one’s eyesight would cause the afflicted individual significant depression or would severely influence one’s personality in some negative manner. However, Harris’ remarkable attitude has permitted him to take these horrific adversities in stride. Harris was, and still is, a very friendly and cheerful individual. He could not be more pleasant and a real joy to be with.

Harris and Kay fell in love when they were in the eighth grade at El Paso High School (EPHS). They are now in their mid-80s and their love continues.

In high school, Harris and Kay were among the most popular students. Harris was an excellent athlete, excelling in both football and baseball. He was an All-District outside linebacker in football in his senior year (Photo 1). All-District meant that he was voted by the sports writers of the major El Paso newspaper to be the best outside linebacker in all the high schools in the City.

Photo 1. Harris shown in his EPHS football uniform. He was All District in his senior year.


During his senior year, Harris was selected All EPHS BOY (Photo 2). All EPHS Boy is an honor bestowed on a young man in his graduating class by the school faculty. This award is given to the male student considered by the faculty to have done the most for the high school in the years he was there. This honor reflected how much the school faculty admired and respected Harris for his numerous accomplishments.


Photo 2. Harris’ ALL EPHS Boy picture in his senior year.

Kay was an exceptionally beautiful young lady and has maintained her beauty throughout her life. In her junior year, she was voted by her classmates to be the most beautiful girl in the class (Photo 3). In her senior year, she was vote Fiesta Queen (Photo 4).


Photo 3. Kay’s most beautiful girl photo in her junior year, 1953.



Photo 4. Kay’s and Harris’ photo of Kay as Fiesta Queen in their senior year, 1954.

Harris was a successful life insurance salesman in El Paso. He also was an active leader in the community. He served on the Sun Bowl Committee for six years and was president for two years. The Sun Bowl Committee is responsible for selecting the college football teams which play in the Sun Bowl. He was also president of the El Paso Downtown Kiwanis Club, the Los Caballeros Club and served as vice president of the Del Monte Club.

Harris was also active in his church from the time he was in high school until his blindness in 2018. As a teenager, he was an acolyte. In later life, he served on the vestry for five years and was a chalice bearer, a lay reader and an usher until his blindness in 2018.

Kay was the sweetest person anyone would ever want to meet. She greeted everyone in a most pleasant and genuinely ardent manner; and it made the person feel better for having seen and visited with her. Like Harris, she has many friends who adore her.

Kay and Harris have three children, two daughters, Lea and Gay, and one son, Carter. Lea and Gay are like their mother in being very attractive and sociable, while Carter is like his father in being very outgoing and loving to fish and hunt.

Lea lives in Toronto with her husband, Rick, and they have three children. Gay lives in El Paso with her husband, Mark Thompson, and they have two sons, while Carter also lives in El Paso with his wife Page and they, like Gay and Mark, have two children. In addition to the seven grandchildren, Harris and Kay have five great-grand-children.

Although Harris was advised by his doctors, and daughter Gay, to move into an assisted living facility, he still lives in the beautiful home that he and Kay designed and commissioned a construction company to build in the early 1990s. Harris cared for Kay in their home since the onset of her dementia until her illness advanced to a stage he could no longer do so. She was moved into an assisted living facility in May 2017 and Harris has rarely missed a day of visiting with her.

At home, Harris has a housekeeper who comes for a few hours in the morning, five days a week, fixes his breakfast and cleans the house. Gay visits with him several times a week and assists him in doing anything that needs to be done. She often takes him to see Kay, to go shopping and/or to go on numerous other outings.

Harris is also blessed with very nice neighbors and many friends that help him run errands, attend Church each Sunday, and go out for lunches and dinners during the week, including breakfasts on weekends. He also uses Uber to take him to see Kay and to run errands.

My wife, Mary, and I visited Harris in July, 2019. We saw Kay on three occasions in the assisted living facility and once when the caretakers took Kay and another lady living at the facility out to lunch. Although Kay often may not recognize others, on each occasion we saw her, she recognized me. She held out her arms for me to give her a hug. I was deeply touched by Kay’s awareness of my presence.

Gay told Harris about a mechanical device that enhances the size of written material which he purchased. This device permits him to read the newspaper and emails, to write checks and to use for taking care of many of the other essentials that require sight and run a household.

Another reason Harris can live on his own is his many friends who want to be of help because of his outgoing and most amicable attitude. He never complains and always has something pleasant to say. He is just not a “poor me” sort of person.

Harris’ personality is infectious. An example of how others are attracted to and adore him occurred one morning when Mary and I took Harris to the large supermarket where he does his weekly shopping. As we walked the various aisles, we met seven or eight of the employees. All of the employees greeted him warmly— the women gave him a hug, while the men hugged him and/or gave him a hearty hand shake.

We also visited the H & H Car Wash and Coffee Shop, which is owned by Maynard Haddad. Maynard and Harris have been close friends since high school. The Tex-Mex food served in the Coffee Shop is regarded as some of the best anywhere. While we were at the H & H Coffee Shop, several friends of Harris’ dropped by our table to say hello and chat with him.

The three evenings Mary and I were in El Paso and staying with Harris, we ate at three of his favorite restaurants. Each evening, friends of Harris’ dropped by our table to talk with him. We were amazed by the number of people who knew Harris and came by our table to say hello.

Through the years of visiting El Paso and being out in public with Harris, I use to tease him by saying that he knows so many El Pasoans, we should run him for mayor.

One evening while Harris and I were talking, I mentioned how incredible it was that he and Kay fell in love when they were barely teenagers and their wonderful romance has lasted almost seventy years. His expression changed in an instant from cheerful to very sad and he said “It breaks my heart to see Kay suffering.” His expression then quickly returned to cheerful. However, in this split moment, it was clear how profoundly Kay’s dementia hurts him that he carries quietly inside without involving others.

Harris is the most remarkable person I know in that he elects to keep his pain hidden and not to let it interfere with his interactions with others. He makes a superb role model for everyone in how to handle major difficulties in life. His outgoing personality attracts others to him. I admire and respect him tremendously. Godspeed, Harris.

This story is also published here.