Written and Published Online by John Silver Harris

w/contributing articles by various Silver cousins



In Memory of John Silver Harris
May 9, 1933 – October 9, 2009


For the second year in a row, I have to be the bearer of bad news.  On October 9th, we lost our cousin John Silver Harris, genealogist, writer, and friend.  John Harris was the founder of Silver Notes, the non-electronic precursor of these Silver Threads, and he came out of retirement to take over this newsletter when we lost our long-time editor John Silver last year.  We were still working our way back up to a monthly edition when John died.  Sadly, I didn’t even know that he was gone until I submitted the October edition last night.

The Emails are starting to come in with memories and wishes for the family John has left behind.  I will continue to update and repost this November edition as a memorial to John … please send any correspondence to [email protected] and I will append them here.

In addition, Art Graham is collecting memories, messages, and photographs of John at his Winged Foot Lane website.  Check out the site at 

And John’s former co-worker Della Attisani and her husband Steven Wildman have graciously allowed us to view a collection of photos of John that were taken at the Tabloid Reunions; the URL is


 ”Cousin” Barney Kaufman



John Silver Harris


John Silver Harris, 76, of Boca Rotan, Florida, and formerly of Morganton died unexpectedly Friday, October 9, 2009 following a period of declining health. He was born May 9, 1933 in Morganton to Lennie S. Harris and the late John Boone Harris. John graduated from Oak Hill High School in 1950 and then completed an additional year of high school at Morganton. This enabled John to acquire enough college credits to enter Berea College in Berea, Kentucky. While enrolled at Berea College, John became the editor of the college newspaper. This exposure to writing and reporting the news launched him into a career of journalism. He graduated from Berea College in 1955.

John served in the US Army and Army Reserve from October 5, 1957 until October 4, 1961. After completing his tour in the military, John began working for the Cynthiana Democrat newspaper in Cynthiana, KY, and became the editor in a short period of time. As a result of his writing and reporting skills, John was offered a position with the National Enquirer. He accepted the job and moved to Boca Rotan, FL to work in the Enquirer’s main office.

John was once interviewed by Mike Wallace of CBS’s 60 Minutes. He was also given an assignment by the National Enquirer to travel around the world in search of the perfect “Utopia” (heaven on earth). This assignment involved traveling half-way around the world, coming home to rest for a couple of months, and then completing the other half. He kept a travel log of the places he visited while on assignment. John’s conclusion was that “Utopia” is not necessarily a place, but can also be a state of mind.

After John’s retirement, he continued to do free-lance work for several newspapers in the Boca Rotan and Miami, Florida area. His love for history led him to compile numerous books on the genealogy of many families in Burke County and elsewhere, some of which are located in the Burke County Library.

In addition to his mother, survivors left behind to cherish his memory are sisters, Doris H. Medlin and husband, Robert L. of Charlotte, and Helen H. Farris and husband, Walter of Morganton; his ex-wife, Merlin Kennedy Harris; and two step-sons, Darryl and Paul Kennedy.

In addition to his father, he was preceded in death by an infant son, Steven Todd Harris.

A graveside service will be held at 1:00 pm, Saturday, October 31, 2009 at Mountain Grove United Methodist Church Cemetery with Rev. Betty Henson officiating. Following the graveside service, a Celebration of Life service will be held at 1:15 pm in the church fellowship hall. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Berea College, 103 Jackson St., Berea, KY 40403-1749, or Mountain Grove United Methodist Church Cemetery Fund, 3625 Fish Hatchery Rd., Morganton, NC 28655. Sossoman Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements.


Silver ancestral line: John Silver Harris < John Boone Harris + Lennie Ellen Silver < David Alonzo “Lonny” Silver < Sgt. John Silver (CSA) < Alfred Leonard Silver < Rev. Jacob Silver < George Silver, Jr < George Silver, Sr.



Dear Friends of John Harris:

John Harris, our friend and neighbor, passed away, peacefully, October 9, 2009, in his home at Boca Raton, Florida.

John was a wonderful friend and neighbor.  We have all enjoyed reading his many stories and his wicked sense of humor.  His kindness and generosity will always be remembered.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, October 31, 2009, at 1:00 p.m. at Mountain Grove United Methodist Church on the Fish Hatchery Road, Morganton, North Carolina.

John leaves his mother, two sisters and their families.  Notes of condolences may be sent to his family in care of his sister, Helen, and her husband, Walter Farris.  Their address is 2085 Warrior Fork Trail, Morganton, N. C. 28655-9057.

Memorial contributions may be made to Berea College, CPO 2216, Berea, Kentucky, 40404.

Heide Gorman, Sherry Copas, Karen Merlo. 
([email protected])



To All:

 I had sent several e-mails of the passed month with no reply. I had feared John was not doing well.

 I will say that John Harris will always have a very, very sweet place in our family's hearts! He was the greatest neighbor we have ever had! We past through life meeting many people but not too many that touch us like John!

 Our hearts go out to those on this list!

Scott Gardner




 Thanks To Heide, Sherry and Karen for their assistance with John’s passing and getting the information out.

 I had been spending a lot of time with John in his final weeks, but was having toe surgery the day he passed, and have been “housebound”. Heidi can relate, just recovering from hip replacement.

 We will all miss Mr. John (as I called him), I had taken him on as a surrogate father figure after the passing of my own father.

 If you have any comments or anecdotes, please send them to me, I am going to publish the Obituary on the neighborhood website, to which John was a frequent contributor. If you have any pictures, send them too. John was camera shy.

 Even though John officially lived on Burning Tree Lane, he was the only neighbor so far to have earned the golden Winged Foot pin.

Art Graham



Peter and I will truly miss John.  He was so good about sending out e-mails telling of all the goings on with Berea College Alumni.  We spent a wonderful day with him when we were in Florida for a week.  He was so good to have us to his house and out to dinner.  He and Peter went to the everglades and just had a great time talking of the good times at Berea.  He just was so good at keeping up with everyone.  We will truly miss those e-mails.

Peter and Cheryl Thoms
Flint, MI.



To all:

 I am very saddened to hear about the passing of John Harris. He was a great man and a great journalist. I loved working with him at the Boca Raton News in the late 1990s. He could always be counted on for a funny story to break the tension. I owe him a lot and will miss his sage advice and kind guidance.

Vincent F. Safuto
Ellenton, FL



Johnny, as we called him then, was editor of the Pinnacle when I started at Berea.  I think he was the one who got the title changed from Wallpaper to Pinnacle.  Anyone else remember this?  At any rate, he helped me enormously by teaching me some  tricks of the trade--journalism, that is.  A great mentor and a great friend.

Mary Ellen Yates Miller



Mary Ellen Yates Miller (we were freshmen together) was right...Johnny changed the name of the college newspaper to Pinnacle.  We, my husband Bob Elkins, and I (Shirley Wisecup Elkins) discussed this with John sometime last year when we visited in Boca.  We went to school with John at Berea and reconnected in Boca while visiting our friends, Joy and Harry Stigall (EKU grads).  We were able to visit with him several times, and during the last visit, actually made him chicken soup while he was recovering from surgery.  We so appreciated his talent and connections which he so willingly took care of.  He promoted Bob's first book a few years ago which we greatly appreciated.  We enjoyed the many writings he sent, and that he kept us abreast of Berea news.  I sensed something was wrong when we had not heard from him for sometime.  We will miss him on our Boca visits.

Well done, good and faithful friend.
Shirley & Bob



Hello Dawn and Everyone,

 I am Melissa Fox Jones and a distant Silver relative of John's.  First of all, please let me express my deepest sympathy to John's sisters, close family, the Silver family, friends, Florida neighbors, classmates and those who knew and loved him as I did.

 I first met John in the early 1990's.   I was visiting the Silver chapel in Kona, NC where I found a pamphlet on the book he had written.  The title of it was Silver:  Our Pioneer Ancestors.  I immediately ordered a book and was fascinated by the details of the research that had been done on the branches of the family from our Revolutionary War ancestor, George Silver.   >From that point on, I began a correspondence with John that continued until this day.   I used his book as part of my proof for DAR membership and donated a copy to the DAR library.   The library takes any book that is donated and puts a hard cover on it and lists it in the catalogue and documents it for the ancestor that it recognizes.   I recall telling John about this and how pleased but humble he seemed to be that his book would be listed in history documenting our family heritage.  

 I always enjoyed receiving correspondence from John.  I say correspondence because it was never just a letter.   I always received articles he had written which left not just a smile, but a grin on my face followed by a chuckle and usually and outward laughter that made my day much brighter than before. 

 We took a family vacation in the summer of 2006 to Pompano Beach were I contacted John shortly after we arrived.   He was so glad to hear from me and I was happy to see him again.   It had been years since our last visit.   We met him for lunch and I was able to introduce him to my husband and stepdaughter.   We had a delightful visit.   He spoke of wanting to move back to Morganton and I had a feeling that he missed North Carolina more than he would admit.   We said our goodbye's and I told him when he returned to Morganton that I would be sure to stop by to see him then.   I did not know that our visit that day on Burning Tree Lane would be our last.    And that our visit in Morganton would be the one to say our final farewell. 

 John was indeed someone special, and someone I count as a blessing in my life.   I will miss him very much, and I thank you for allowing me to share a small part of how much he meant to me and to my family. 

 Dawn, please feel free to share this at the Celebration on Saturday in case I do not have an opportunity to come.    Thank you again.

Melissa Fox Jones



Message from Steven Wildman:

John and I worked together at the National Examiner from 1990-1995, and remained close friends and constant e-mail buddies. He was never at a loss for something to share with me, and I was always delighted to hear from him. John was a consummate storyteller, in print and in person. What a collection of stories his life was!

In response to his friend Art Graham, I would like to share this folder of pictures of John who accompanied my husband Steve Wildman and me to the Tabloid Reunions.

Della Attisani



While living in Boca Raton Fl. in 1984 my wife Lucy and I meat John  Harris.  Our accents were very similar, and after a few minutes we  found we were all from the N.  C. mountains.  John from  Morganton, and us from Spruce Pine.  We found that now we live only a few blocks apart.  As our friendship grew. we learned to love and  appreciate John more and more.

Since John and I enjoyed eating and talking, and Lucy liked to cook and try new receipts, we invited John for dinner most every week.  We  were entertained by John's stories and about his work, until we felt  we also worked for the Inquirer.

As time went on we meet John's family, His Mother, Lennie Silvers, his sister Doris and husband, Bob and their daughter, Dawn. His sister, Helen and her husband Walter.  We were able to visit with them on some  of our visits to N C.

 In 2002 we moved back to Charlotte N C, but continued to stay in touch with John.  On one of his visits to N C  he was able to come by and visit with us in Charlotte. He talked about moving back to N C in the future.

John was always willing to help when he could.  One year Lucy was  writing a story as told to her by her Grandmother, Bertie Ellis, about  the "Christmas Angels".  John helped her and printed it out for  her.  One Christmas morning he made a picture of our Christmas tree with our Grandchildren, Daniel and Jeremy.  The next day that picture was in the Boca News.  One day when I was busy and Lucy had an  appointment at the Hospital for tests, John said “I will take her”, he  did and waited the three hours while she had tests.  When I decided to  buy a computer, John taught Lucy and I to use it.

John was a great friend and neighbor, we will miss him greatly. He  changed our lives forever.

Harold Dale



OTHER Obituaries




Asheville (NC) Citizen-Times
March 08, 2009


Fletcher - Ethel Jane Shipman Silvers, 87, of Mills Gap Road, Fletcher, died Friday, March 6, 2009, of a sudden illness at Missions Hospitals.

Mrs. Silvers was a native of McDowell County and was the daughter of the late Elisha and Mary Shipman. She was preceded in death by her husband of 66 years, Glenn William Silvers, who died in 2004; an infant twin son, Stanley Louis Silvers in 1939; and a daughter, Jackie Dudney in 1981.

She was a loving Mother, Grandmother, and Great Grandmother and she had many Grandchildren she adopted in her heart of her own accord. She loved gardening, riding motorcycles and spending time with her family and tending to her flowers.

Survivors include four daughters, Stella Moore and husband, Bill, of Fletcher, Mary Dotson and husband, Cliff, of Fairview, Pat Youngblood and husband, Bill, of Hendersonville and Glenda Sternal and husband, Lonnie, of Robbinsville; eight grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren. Also surviving are brothers and sisters, Nora Howell of Asheville, Virginia Smith of Charlotte, Lloyd Shipman of California, Mary Jo Shipman of Fletcher and twins, George Shipman of Asheville and Joyce McMinn of Arden. She was sister of the late Fred Moore of Fletcher and Marie Franks of Atlanta, Ga.

At her request, private family services will be held.

Groce Funeral Home at Lake Julian is assisting the family and the memorial register is available online by going to Obituaries at


Silver ancestral line: Ethel Jane Shipman m. Glenn William Silvers < Adolphus Lorenzo “Ranzie” Silver < William Anderson “Bud” Silver < John William “JW” Silver < Rev. Thomas Silver < George Silver Jr. < George Silver Sr.





Groce Funeral Home
July 11, 2009


Arden ~ Elizabeth Hornsby Gouge, 68, of Arden died on Sunday, July 5, 2009, at Mission Hospitals Memorial Campus.

She was born September 17, 1940, in Tallassee, Alabama, and lived in Wetumpka, AL, before moving to Western North Carolina. She was the daughter of the late Homer Lester Hornsby and Helen Elizabeth Williams Hornsby. She was preceded in death by a brother, Ray Hornsby of Asheville.

She was retired from Advance Business Equipment as office manager and was a member of Arden First Baptist Church.

She is survived by two sons, Michael Evan Gouge and wife, Ginger Cunningham, of Fletcher, NC, and William Carlton Gouge of Coventry, RI; a grandson, Caleb Joseph Gouge of Coventry, RI; two brothers, Roy Hornsby of Trussville, AL and Ralph Hornsby of Huntsville, AL.

A graveside service will be held 11:00 AM on Saturday, July 11, 2009, at Roberts Memorial Park.
The family will receive friends from 10:00 – 11:00 AM on Saturday prior to the service at Groce Funeral Home at Lake Julian on Long Shoals Road.


Silver ancestral line: Elizabeth Hornsb m. Esse Vee Gouge, Jr. < Esse Quam Videre Gouge < William M. “Will” Gouge < Wiley Gouge < James Gouge < John Gouge < Thomas Gouge



John Silver Harris
Genealogist & Editor
105 Burning Tree Lane
Boca Raton, FL  33431-3924
[email protected]

Barney Kaufman
7408 Lake Drive
Manassas, VA 20111-1960
[email protected]