Myra Harrison, co-founder and matriarch of E. J. Harrison & Sons, one of the largest private enterprises in Ventura County, has died at age 99.
A news bulletin from the Harrison family said she died in her sleep on May 25. She was the daughter of Francisca Moraga Velarde and Elias Velarde and her ancestors included the founder of the San Buenaventura Mission.
Harrison married at age 15 and with her husband she co-founded E.J. Harrison & Sons in the depths of the Great Recession in 1932. They began by asking neighbors if they could haul their trash to the dump at a price of 75 cents per load.
Today the company is called Harrison Industries. It has 90,000 customers, serves major portions of Ventura County and the city of Carpinteria in Santa Barbara County and has 400 employees. According to Business Times records, its annual revenue is about $85 million, making it one of the largest private companies in the Tri-Counties.
E.J. Harrison died in 1991, but his widow remain actively engaged in the management of the company. Their three sons, Ralph, Jim and Myron, have assumed day-to-day management of the company for many years and they have begun adding succeeding generations of family members into the business.
Well-known for her charitable work, Harrison was named 2003 Philanthropist of the Year for Ventura County by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Under her leadership, the company supported a number of nonprofits including Boys & Girls Clubs in several cities, Ojai Music Festival and Casa Pacifica. A new Boys & Girls Club of Ventura youth center in Saticoy is named for the Harrison Family, which helped pay for construction.
The company has been a pioneer in environmental stewardship and was an early adopter of compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas for powering its trucks. It also owns and operates Gold Coast Recycling and has an investment in Agromin, a pioneering venture in recycling agribusiness waste.
In addition to her three sons, a daughter, Jean Seamands, lives in Wyoming with her family.
A mass of Christian burial will be held on Saturday, May 31, at 9 a.m. at the San Buenaventura Mission at 211 E. Main St. in Ventura. A reception will follow in the Church Hall (O’Brien Hall) and interment will take place at Ivy Lawn Memorial Park, 5400 Valentine Road, Ventura, following the reception.
Arrangements are under the direction of the Ted Mayr Funeral Home at 3150 Loma Vista Road in Ventura. Condolences may be left at www.TedMayrFuneralHome.com.