Ardesial Elizabeth Williams Harris, lovingly known as Dessa, was born on August 2, 1935 in Sampson County Dismal Township, NC to the late Iverson David and Lessie Williams. She went to eternal glory on July 4, 2023 surrounded by family at home in Waldorf, MD.
She spent her childhood in Dunn, NC alongside her late sister, Nedgie Williams Richardson. In 1953, she graduated from Johnston County Training School. After graduating from high school, she attended North Carolina College (now North Carolina Central University) as a math major with a Spanish minor. She earned her Bachelor’s of Science degree in 1958. Ardesial later earned her Master’s degree in Counseling from Trinity College (now Trinity Washington University) in Washington, DC.
On December 21, 1962, she was married to the late Samuel A. Harris, Sr. Through their union, two sons were born, James and Thomas Harris. The family lived in Washington, DC and Prince George’s County, MD. While living in the DC area, she enjoyed shopping, hosting parties, and hanging out with her aunts- Dee, Geneva, and Mary.
She served as an educator for over 40 years, the majority of the time in DC Public Schools and Harnett County Public Schools. During her tenure with DC Public Schools, she was voted Teacher of the Year two years in a row at Terrell Junior High School. As an educator, she dedicated her professional life to impacting the lives of her students. This impact resonated to anyone she came in contact with. Ardesial loved to see anyone succeed and enjoyed guiding those around her.
She was baptized at her childhood church, Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Dunn, NC, which she also attended after relocating back to Dunn, NC in 1994. While a member of Mt. Zion, she served in many capacities under the leadership of Rev. Floyd Ray. At Mt. Zion, she served as a trustee and member of the finance committee. She served as a Sunday School teacher, youth department leader, and was instrumental in the procurement of the new church building. While in Washington, DC, she served at Brookland Union Baptist Church under the leadership of the late Rev. Joseph A. Miles, Sr. At Brookland Union, she served as a deaconess, usher, choir member, and was a member of the Travel Club and August Birthdays Club. In the last couple years of her life, she was a member of New Life Missionary Baptist Church in Indian Head, MD under the leadership of her son, Pastor James Harris, Sr.
Ardesial loved family and believed in leaving a legacy. This was evident through her participation in the Williams Family Reunion including serving as president from 1996-2001. She had many talents including tutoring, playing piano, and speaking Spanish fluently. She loved to travel and take pictures, especially in the mountains and the beach. Her travels took her to many places across the country and the world including Spain. In her spare time, she loved to play Scrabble, read novels, and talk on the phone to her many friends and family members. She had an iconic laugh and smile that brought joy to those around her.
She leaves to cherish the memories of her life, two sons, Jamie (Bridgette) Harris of Waldorf, MD and Tommy Harris of College Park, GA; a bonus daughter, Marsha Rose of Hyattsville, MD; a daughter in love, Deloris Harris of Durham, NC; her grandchildren, Chavonte Harris, James Harris, Jr., Madeline Harris, Chavonne Harris, Shawn Harris, Sonya Harris, Charles Harris, II, Jennifer Harris, and Raymond Collins; several great-grandchildren; one surviving aunt, Geneva Grayson; and three nephews, Conrad “Mitch” Williams, Joseph “Tony” Gonzalez, and Gordon Richardson; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Iverson David and Lessie Williams; sister, Nedgie Williams Richardson; husband, Samuel A. Harris, Sr; five bonus children, Samuel Harris, Jr, Charles Harris, Peggy Harris, Willie Waddell, and Mamie Aura; one granddaughter, Regina Collins; best friend since childhood, Elizabeth “Anne” Whitley, and many aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. Ardesial loved serving the Lord and we can rejoice that she is resting in the arms of Jesus.
Family and friends will gather for a service on Wednesday, July 12, 2023, visitation will begin at 11:00am and continue until time of service, 12:30pm, at Brookland Union Baptist Church, 3101 14th Street, Washington, DC 20017. Also, on Saturday, July 15, 2023, service will be held at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Dunn, N.C. Interment will follow at the church cemetery.