Truly an old soul placed in a young body, Harry was full of energy and wisdom beyond his years. He knew without doubt what life was all about - learning, laughing, and helping other people do the same.
During the early 1990s, American popular culture was undergoing its latest change. As the World Wide Web increased its following, CDs outsold cassette tapes and beanie babies flew off store shelves in record numbers. The Stout family, meanwhile, was anxiously awaiting the birth of a third child. Already blessed with two beautiful, healthy, happy girls named Allie and Meryl, the entire family hoped for the new baby to be a boy. Everyone, that is, except little Meryl, who had always said "I’d like a Dalmatian, please." However, an 11 pound boy, not a puppy, arrived at Borgess Hospital on May 20, 1992. There were many tears of joy shed that day at his birth because they were so happy to have a healthy baby boy. They named the boy Harrison, and from that moment on, he became not only the newest, but the most energetic, member of the Stout family.
Meryl & Allie could not help but warm up to little Harry, who had lots of blond curly hair and was always doing something to make them laugh. As a toddler he would put eggs in his dump truck and drive it around the kitchen. Harry had somewhat of a fascination with food and loved to play with it, which led his parents to put Velcro on the fridge to keep him from sneaking in and making a mess. Much to everyone’s surprise, Harry’s first word was not “eggs” or “truck” or even “Velcro.” Instead, the first clear utterance out of his mouth was “ball.”
Harry’s first word foreshadowed his later love of sports, a love that shown during his schooling at Westwood Totland, Cooper Elementary and Gilkey Elementary. It was during these years that he began playing soccer in the first grade and later in the third grade he was ready to take on rocket football and basketball. Under his dad’s coaching, Harry and the rocket football team had two undefeated years, as well as another two winning years. Through sports, Harry and his dad became best friends. They took lots of trips together, including one to Dallas to see a Cowboy’s game.
At home Harry took a break from sports by staging plays with his sisters, who dressed him up in all sorts of costumes. Harry liked to make-believe and was good at it - so good, in fact, that he won the leading male role in the Civic Theater’s production of The Little Princess. Never shy to play a girl, Harry even let his mother and sisters dress him up as "Sandy" from Grease while the girls dressed up as the guys, for a neighborhood party. He got a kick out it, especially making people smile and laugh.
Not surprisingly, Harry won the unofficial title of “Class Jokester” at Plainwell Middle School. Making his classmates laugh and enjoy themselves meant a lot to him, as did performing well in school. Harry was a responsible, smart student who worked hard to receive his first all A and B grade report card. Though he was popular and a good student, Harry always remained very humble about everything in his life. He just wanted to have fun, learn, and help others enjoy life as much as he did.
Having a great passion for sports, Harry eagerly made time in his busy middle school schedule to play as many as he could. He picked up golf while continuing to play both football and basketball as well. In football he loved playing defensive tackle. In basketball, he coveted center position above all others. Enthusiastic as well as talented, Harry earned the right to play in an all-star basketball tournament in 2003.
Although he thoroughly enjoyed playing sports, Harry liked being a spectator too. He often went to watch his dad announce soccer games and helped him with the PA and announcing. At the games he made many friends young and old. “Do you remember. . .”, Harry would say enthusiastically, even if recalling an incident from just 5 minutes earlier. The crowd would laugh and cheer at Harry’s antics, especially when he recounted a funny story, did an impersonation, or offered up a well-know one-liner from a popular movie.
Whatever money Harry earned from his yard work or household chores he often gave away. He gave it to his sisters or to anyone who he knew deserved it. Once, when he was ten, he even used his own money to buy a pair of tennis shoes for a friend who could not afford them. Harry, humble as always, never expected or wanted anything in return. A smile, whether on his sisters’ faces or his friends’, was more than enough to make his effort worth while.
Being well-liked by almost everyone who knew him, Harry made friends of every age. He was invited to all sorts of parties and outings, but usually, he just preferred to stay home with his family. Harry’s father was undeniably his best pal, though he was incredibly protective and loving toward his mother and sisters as well. They were all his best friends and they always had fun together. Of course, their greatest moments of laughter usually came at Harry’s expense, but not surprisingly, he was always quick with a clever comeback.
Not a day of Harry’s life passed without an “I love you” and a kiss from mom and dad. Even his last day was spent just as he would have liked, at his sister’s soccer game surrounded by friends, family, laughter, and love. This day will always be remembered, as will all of the extraordinary moments Harry created with the people he loved.
Harrison Stout died November 6, 2004 in Plainwell. His family includes his parents: Joseph & Kathy Stout of Plainwell; sisters: Meryl & Alexandra Stout of Plainwell; grandparents: Joe & Beverly Stout of Kalamazoo and Philip & Ellen Hoard of Portage; many aunts, uncles, and cousins.