Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


December 13, 2011

Grace W. Harrison

CROSSVILLE — Grace Worthington Harrison, 93, of Crossville, passed away Oct. 26, 2011. She died at home peacefully in her sleep.  Funeral services were held Oct. 29 in the chapel of Bilbrey Funeral Home. Burial was in Crossville City Cemetery. Jim Crabtree officiated the service and special music was provided by Marian Sullivan, Annie Crabtree and Greg and Lindy Pendzick.

Grace Worthington Harrison had a grand, wonderful life and appreciated all the beauty in it.

She was born Dec. 18, 1917, in Pittsburgh, PA. She knew she wanted to be an artist at age 8. At 18, in the middle of the Depression, she went to Miami, FL, to be a graphic artist for Burdines Department Store. From there she went to New York City, NY, where she was a graphic artist for Bloomingdales and Saks Department Stores. She had a wonderful time going snow skiing in New England every weekend during the winters and sailing in Maine during the summers. 

In 1941, she met her future husband, Lt. Arthur G. Harrison, a young U.S. Naval officer. They married May 5, 1943, at Grace Church in New York City. After the war, he was stationed in the Mediterranean and she toured Italy. From there she accompanied other Navy wives on trips to Greece and Ephesus, Turkey. She also went to Berlin just after the Berlin Airlift while there was still coal dust in the seats on the plane.

Around 1950, her husband was transferred to the Pacific. They moved to San Francisco where she hung out a shingle as a graphic artist. She said in a joking way that she had no trouble getting work because, she said, "I had worked in New York and so they all thought I knew what I was doing!”

Later they moved to San Diego and had their son, Robert Edgar Harrison. In 1958, they moved to Japan. She continued to paint and got an honorable mention for her oil painting “Bicycles in the Rain” at the Tokyo Museum of Art. In 1960, they moved back to her husband’s home town, Crossville.

In 1963, she got involved helping Paul and Mary Crabtree put on a play called “The Perils of Pinocchio” at the old High School (now part of the Justice Center across from the Hospital). She designed and constructed the puppet Pinocchio on her dining room table out of paper mâché! The play was such a hit in the community that others soon followed (“Kiss and Tell,” “A Trophy for Mr. Heartfelt”) and soon plans were underway to build a “real theater!” Grace worked with Paul Crabtree and many others to design what would become “The Cumberland County Playhouse.” 

The first show was "Tennessee, USA!” Jim Crabtree said, “Paul would design the sets; I would construct them, and Grace would make them — beautiful!”

Later she worked on many other shows with Paul and Mary Crabtree and Martha Hill such as “Our Town,” “Silver Whistle,” “Music Man,” “Oklahoma,” “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Where in the World!” and “Carousel,” to name but a few.

She never met a medium she didn’t like or wouldn’t try: clay, oil paint, watercolor, felt, air brushing, acrylics and sewing, along with many others — anything to get the job done, and often on a large scale. 

She also had many other interests. She did a lot of research into her family genealogy, undertook furniture refinishing and upholstery, and was very interested in English and Irish history.

She is survived by her son, Robert Edgar Harrison; daughter-in-law, Lisa Garner Harrison; and granddaughters, Grace McNulty and Katherine Lee Harrison, all of Crossville.

In addition to her parents, brother and sister, she was preceded in death by her husband, Arthur Gernt Harrison.

Pallbearers were George Ed Harrison, Brock Hill, Cosby Stone, Steve Stone, Alan Strachn and Frank Bohannon.

Bilbrey Funeral Home was in charge of the arrangements.

Memorial donations may be made to the Cumberland County Playhouse, P.O. Box 484, Crossville, TN  38557, or online at, or to the worthy organization of your choice.

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