Donald L. “Papaw” Harrison

Donald L. “Papaw” Harrison

Don was born on January 4th, 1928, in Jeffersonville, Indiana. He was raised on a farm near Clarksville, Indiana and attended high school in Jeffersonville, Indiana. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Louisville and a Master of Science degree from Indiana University.
After college Don served in the U.S. Army where he was assigned to Fort Belvoir in Virginia. This is where Don met his wife Larissa who was originally from Riga, Latvia, and was very proud to become a naturalized citizen of the United States. Don and Larissa were married in 1957 and later blessed with a beautiful son and daughter.

After an honorable discharge from the Army, Don worked for the U.S. Government as a nuclear physicist at the Bettis Atomic Power Research and Development Laboratory in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Don was a member of an exclusive surface ship nuclear design and analysis group responsible for the design and development of nuclear power for the U.S. Navy.

His responsibilities included the development of detailed, written, step-by-step processes and procedures for refueling the eight nuclear reactors that powered the longest naval vessel ever built, the USS Enterprise and the nuclear reactors on aircraft carrier Nimitz.

Don also oversaw the startup and testing of the nuclear reactors at the Idaho nuclear reactor test site, nuclear reactors on the nuclear cruiser Long Beach, and nuclear reactors on the aircraft carrier Enterprise. He ultimately managed a nuclear design and testing group and a radiological control plant safety group.

Don served as councilman of the 5th ward of the Municipality of Bethel Park for 48 years through December 31st, 2021, at the age of 93. Early in his tenure, Don was appointed to the Bethel Park Home Rule Charter Study Commission where he personally and very meticulously authored many sections of Bethel Park’s Home Rule Charter that is still in use by the municipality to this day. His leadership roles included: Chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission, Chairman of the Health, Safety and Welfare Committee, and Liaison to the Bethel Park Municipal Authority. Don’s spirited advocacy for the live and taped broadcasting of municipal council meetings resulted in Bethel Park being one of the first communities in Allegheny County to do so. Don’s long tenure on municipal council was recognized by the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs with the presentation of both their Presidents Award and their Trustee Award.

Don also volunteered his time as a Boy Scout leader and senior assistant scoutmaster of Troop 228, the Thunderbirds, for 42 years. He coordinated and participated in many scout-related community service projects, construction and clean-up projects, summer camping trips, fund raisers, and educational trips to historical places such as Gettysburg, Williamsburg, and the Ford Museum. He also personally guided many Scouts in the process of becoming Eagle Scouts.

Don Harrison was a proud veteran that believed in the American dream. He was never afraid to show his pride and pay it forward throughout his long tenure of public service and never-ending volunteer efforts. Don’s surviving family members are: his daughter Donna (Steve) Hamer of Huntington, WV, three loving grandchildren whom referred to Don as “Papaw” including Dr. Christina (Dr. Adam) Highberger of Indiana, PA, Stephen (Madison Chapman) Hamer and Matthew Hamer of Huntington, WV and his five beautiful great grandchildren Greyson, Weston, (twin boys 4 yrs of age), Arie (two yrs old), Adalee (2 yrs old), and Evie (3 months old), and another little one on the way.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts / donations to be sent to Charcot-Marie-Tooth Association, P. O. Box 105, Glenolden, PA 19036 or go to “” on line.

Private funeral services will be held on December 27th, 2022.

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