The Brigham community mourns the loss of Aretha Shine Harris, who passed away on Oct. 2 following an illness. She was 50 years old.
A member of the Brigham family for 25 years, Ms. Harris most recently worked as a housekeeper in the Dialysis Unit on Braunwald Tower 3, where she assisted staff, patients and visitors before taking a leave of absence due to her illness.
Ms. Harris was remembered by colleagues for her compassion, work ethic, warmth and love of family and friends.
“Aretha took so much pride in what she did every day by providing a safe and clean environment for our patients, visitors and employees” said Labina Shrestha, operations manager in Environmental Services. “She had a passion for her work, and she was respected and admired by her colleagues. Our team will always remember Aretha as a charming, vibrant, genuinely warm and wonderful individual.”
‘A True Friend’
Throughout her time working in the Dialysis Unit, Ms. Harris became friendly with many patients and staff, including Kevin Calderone, RN, a dialysis nurse and renal transplant coordinator. To Calderone, Ms. Harris was more than a colleague — she was a true friend.
“Working with Aretha was a complete pleasure,” Calderone said. “She was quick to laugh and easygoing. She was easy to talk with and someone I could always trust. Even though I never told her this, Aretha is one of the reasons why I worked on the Dialysis Unit for as long as I did. She will be missed.”
Clinton King, an aide in Environmental Services and a colleague of Ms. Harris for 24 years, recalled her kind, gentle nature and giving heart.
“We spent a lot of great time together both at work and outside of work,” King said. “She was like a member of my family. She was a very good-hearted person, and I always admired her because she never said ‘no’ to anything. She always gave open-heartedly to others and had a great laugh.”
Darlene Foley, RN, a nurse in the ambulatory Infusion Center, said it was a privilege to know Ms. Harris.
“When I was hired at the Infusion Center, I remember meeting Aretha and we got along from the very beginning,” Foley said. “I enjoyed her humor, and she always made me laugh. I looked forward to seeing her every morning. When the Infusion Center moved to the Hale Building for Transformative Medicine, I didn’t see Aretha as often as before, but we would always run into each other every so often and exchange news and a few laughs. I found comfort in knowing that, although I worked in another building, I always knew where to find her. She will always be in my heart.”
‘We Were Like Sisters’
A colleague of Ms. Harris’ for 17 years, Gail Appling, a practice secretary in the Dialysis Unit, considered Ms. Harris a member of her extended family.
“Aretha was the kind of person who drew you in with her humble personality and infectious laugh,” Appling said. “She was kind, caring and generous. As a colleague, Aretha was helpful to all in the Dialysis Unit. She could be seen helping a nurse, answering the phones or getting a hot blanket for a patient. Outside of work, she was the same way, always helping someone in need. Together, we enjoyed various social gatherings, such as flea markets, church, plays, picnics and parties. Aretha was like a sister to me. I miss everything about her.”
Maria De Brito, a unit associate in Environmental Services, described Ms. Harris as an “amazing human being.”
“We were always together and helping each other at work,” De Brito said. “We were like sisters. I still cannot believe she is gone. She has left a big void, and I will never forget her.”
Inacia Teixeira, a unit associate in Environmental Services, said Ms. Harris was one of the first people she met when she began working at the Brigham in 2000.
“She was a lovely person — a bright ray of sunshine,” Teixeira said. “Through the 20 years I’ve known her, we talked every day, especially over our morning coffee. I miss her terribly.”
Ms. Harris’ loved ones say that she never hesitated to spend time with her family and friends.
Her sister, Felicia Shine, who works at Boston Children’s Hospital and previously worked with Ms. Harris in Environmental Services at the Brigham, said she always enjoyed seeing her sister during meal breaks at work.
“Every day, we would meet up and have breakfast and sometimes lunch together,” Shine said. “That is something I am really going to miss.”
Ms. Harris’ colleagues celebrated her life in October with a memorial service in Carrie Hall.
Ms. Harris is survived by her son, Chris Harris, her daughter, Shirkira Harris; her sisters, Cynthia Brown, Felicia Shine and Wynette Shine; surrogate mother, Caroline Carroll; as well as several cousins and dear friends.