A LIFE OF ADVENTURE & SERVICE
Jean and Raymond Harvell both agree that they have lived a fulfilled life. “We have a great family, and we have had so many wonderful life experiences. We are truly blessed,” says Jean. When meeting the Harvells, you can sense the joy in this couple who recently celebrated sixty-eight years together. They have one daughter, Patti, one son, Ray, eight grandchildren, and thirteen great-grandchildren.
Barbara Jean (Barber) Harvell was born in Covington, Tennessee in 1936. She says she had a very happy childhood. She and her brother were very close. Although her parents were very strict, “I always felt loved”, says Jean. “My father owned an old car and he would say, ‘get in the car, we’re going for a ride.’ We would all get in the car and off we would go.”
Jean’s family moved to Memphis while she was very young and her first six years of school were at Leroy Pope. Because the family moved frequently, Jean attended Messick and Humes before starting high school at Treadwell, where she was a cheerleader and a member of the National Honor Society.
Raymond Earl Harvell, the youngest of five children, was born in Memphis in 1935. He was born twelve years after his oldest sibling and therefore was an only child for much of his young life. He attended all grades at Treadwell where he played football and basketball and was in the ROTC. He developed his love of golf when he began caddying at the Chickasaw Golf course at the age of twelve.
Jean and Raymond met at Treadwell High. “She was the only girl I ever dated,” says Raymond. “We loved to go dancing on Saturday nights and enjoyed going to drive-in movies.” Jean adds, “As a matter of fact, we became engaged at a drive-in movie.” They decided to elope. One week following graduation, they drove to Hernando, Mississippi, and were married. They honeymooned at the Memphis Holiday Inn, and Raymond went back to work on Monday. Jean decided to inform her parents of their marriage by telegram. The telegram read: “Dear Mom and Dad, Raymond and I got married. Bye, Jean.” That telegram is now framed.
Jean and Raymond have lived in Memphis their entire marriage except for a brief time in Montgomery, Alabama. Jean’s mother, a widow, moved in with them as a young couple. Jean relates, “I was fortunate to have my mother live with us for forty-two years. She was a tremendous help in caring for the children and the household so I could continue to work.” Raymond was a member of the Air Force Reserves for eight years and was stationed at the Memphis airport, so this did not disrupt their lifestyle.
Jean’s off-and-on work experience was with various insurance agencies starting with E. H. Crump. She began that work as a customer service representative, eventually obtaining a license to sell property and casualty insurance.
In 1954, Raymond started work with Buckeye Cotton Oil, before moving to Southern Bell as a technician in 1955. In 1958, Raymond accepted a job with the American Tobacco Company in Montgomery, Alabama, eventually becoming a district manager. However, according to Raymond, Jean became homesick, and they returned to Memphis. He found employment selling pharmaceuticals. Because his last two jobs involved much travel and time away from home, Raymond’s entrepreneurial idea to start a packaging company was launched. This endeavor was successful, having contracts with stores such as Kroger and Wal-Mart. After thirty-nine years in packaging, at the age of eighty, Raymond decided to retire, “I still miss it,” he admits.
Jean and Raymond’s life has been filled with adventure and service. “We have been truly blessed to be able to travel extensively, visiting many countries and enjoying several cruises,” acknowledges Jean. As members of St. Phillips Episcopal Church, Raymond has served on the Vestry and Jean as a lay reader. Raymond, until recently, loved playing golf and Jean enjoyed bowling until knee replacement was necessary. Raymond has served in several voluntary service positions. In the Al Chymia Shriners organization, Raymond served as Potentate at one time and continues his membership with them. Perhaps his most important contributions have been the twenty years he served on the Shelby County Housing Authority and the sixteen years on the Civil Service Board.
The Harvells decided in 2011 that Kirby Pines was the place for them. According to Jean, “We wanted to make plans so that our children would not be burdened with making decisions. In 2021, we knew it was time to move in. On our first night here, as we entered the dining room, I looked around and said to Raymond, ‘All these people here are old!’ Then I realized we were probably older than most of them. I now know that everyone is young at heart and that is what makes Kirby so special.”
Since moving to Kirby Pines, Jean and Raymond have incorporated the lifestyle here. “What’s not to like about Kirby?” exclaims Jean. “The people are so friendly and kind. The grounds are magnificent; I love to walk my little dog, Precious, and I don’t have to cook! I have joined the Line Dancers with such a great group of ladies, and I have learned and love to play Mahjong. Raymond enjoys the Saturday morning Men’s Fellowship and the Garden Club.” Thus, a new chapter in a fulfilled life has begun for the Harvells.
Written by Joan Dodson, Resident, Kirby Pines