MarySue Harris

November 18, 1941 - February 15, 2024

MarySue Hormel Harris, aged 82, of Lincoln, passed away at her home in Laguna Hills, California, on February 15, 2024. Born on November 18, 1941, in McCook, Nebraska, she was the daughter of Benjamin Franklin Hormel, Jr. and Thalma Ida Lowe Hormel. MarySue, a gifted concert pianist and music teacher and was also the political partner of her husband, Bill Harris, who served as both a Nebraska State Senator and Mayor of Lincoln. Their marriage union spanned 46 years.

Renowned for her musical talent, compassion and philanthropic spirit, MarySue was a member of the First Church of Christ Scientist in Lincoln, NE, and an enthusiastic entrepreneur, operating her own business for decades and supporting numerous startups and family businesses over the years.

Raised in McCook, MarySue graduated from McCook High School and went on to earn a degree in Music from Hastings College, followed by graduate studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

A lifelong Nebraskan, she resided in Lincoln for 55 years, strenuously supporting various institutions and charities, including the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, the Lied Center for Performing Arts, Lincoln City Libraries, Lincoln Public Schools, the Lincoln Symphony Orchestra, and Lincoln Music Teachers Association. As First Lady of Lincoln from 1987 to 1991, she was a fierce advocate for the arts and championed the City of Lincoln and its arts community through the remainder of her life.

MarySue began giving piano lessons at age fourteen and realized her dream of founding the Harris Piano Studio, which she operated for over four decades. She was a passionate educator who touched the lives of hundreds of piano students and guided scores toward musical awards and careers. Even in retirement, she volunteered at Lincoln Public Schools in cooperation with the Lincoln Music Teachers Association, teaching piano to underprivileged students. Her broad generosity and dedication led to the local establishment of the UNL MarySue Harris School of Music Fund, the MarySue Harris Piano Scholarship Fund and even extended to places like Austin, MN in founding a music competition in partnership with the Hormel Historic Home.

MarySue’s positivity and optimism were legendary and infectious. She relished every community event, loved to travel, and brought music and laughter to every family gathering. She was recognized for her passion and leadership with awards such as the Award of Merit from UNL, the Hastings College Pro Rege Society Award, the LMTA Music Teacher of the Year, and the Music Teachers National Association Distinguished Service Award. She was an active and enthusiastic 2nd generation member of chapter GQ P.E.O., an educational and philanthropic organization for women, having served in several capacities over the years.

After retiring from teaching, MarySue became a Christian Science Practitioner, realizing another childhood dream and dedicating over two decades to healing others through her faith.

She is survived by her son and daughter-in-law, Ben Hormel Harris and Maja Viklands Harris of Portland, OR; daughter and son-in-law, Elizabeth Ann “Buff” Harris-Colarossi and Richard Colarossi of Orange County, CA; grandchildren Nelle Harris, Liv Harris, Dean Hormel Colarossi, and Ellison Elizabeth Colarossi; sister Anabeth Hormel Cox of Lincoln, Nebraska; nieces Stephanie Frazier Stacy, Julia Yank of Lincoln, and Andrea Murphy of Cumming, IA. She was preceded in death by her husband Bill Harris and her parents.

A Memorial Service will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday March 9th at 3950 Hohensee Drive (40th & Yankee Hill) Lincoln, NE 68516, followed by a 3:30 p.m. reception at the Country Club of Lincoln, 3200 S 24th St Lincoln, NE 68502. The family welcomes colorful attire.

Rather than flowers, memorials are suggested to Hastings College, UNL Korf School of Music, the McCook Fox Theatre, and the Lincoln City Libraries’s Polley Music Library.

There will be no visitation.

Condolences or personal reflections may be sent to tributestomarysue@gmail.com.

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Memorial Service


Roper & Sons South Chapel

3950 Hohensee Drive (40th & Yankee Hill)
Lincoln, NE 68516

(402) 261-5907

Share a Memory or Condolence

February 24, 2024

So saddened to hear of Mary Sue’s passing. She was an amazing woman and the best piano teacher around. She taught three family members how to play, and it was always a joy to receive her annual Christmas card.

– K. Burton Smith
February 21, 2024

I first knew Mary Sue as a beloved CS practitioner. But then I also realized it was the same Mary Sue Harris that provided generous scholarships through Nebraska Music Teachers Association and the national organization of MTNA. She is the best example I know of a life well lived. Condolences to AnaBeth and the whole family.

– Linda Dahlstrom
February 20, 2024

Someone I always looked up to. A lovely spirit who was truly a light to the world. My sympathies to all the family❤️

– Susan Sehnert Stuart

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