April 25, 1917 ~ April 5, 2009
Playa Vista, CA
Whitley Hiliker Harris, died April 5, 2009, Los Angeles, California.
Born April 25, 1917 on Long Island, New York, Whitley came to Southern California in 1925 when his parents moved to Beverly Hills to work in the movie industry. Harris came from a family of writers. His father, Raymond Harris, began writing screen plays for silent films for stars such as Harry Langdon, and eventually wrote 39 screenplays while working in Hollywood. His mother, Margaret Doyle, was a Society reporter and a ghost writer for Reader's Digest. His late sister, Eleanor Harris, wrote for Look and Life magazines and worked as a playwright in New York. She was married to Jack Howard of the Scripps Howard publishing family. Whitley loved to tell the story of how his parents met. Margaret, working at the San Francisco Chronicle, was returning from lunch with a friend. A despondent man jumped to his death from the newspaper's roof right in front of her. Margaret was hysterical. Her friend rushed into the lobby and grabbed the first man she could find for assistance. That turned out to be Raymond Harris.
Harris began his career in the mail room at Paramount Studios in Hollywood and later worked as a sports car salesman in Los Angeles. He served in the United States Army during World War II, stationed in Alaska where he wrote for the military base newspaper and tended bar at the Officer's Club. Following the war, he returned to Los Angeles where he worked as a technical writer for Douglas Aircraft Company until his retirement.
Harris grew up in Beverly Hills in a house formerly owned by Fred Astaire. His homes in Beverly Hills and later in Pacific Palisades were frequented by many Hollywood stars including Lee Marvin, James Whitmore and David Niven.
Whitley married Yvonne Duchein in 1940. She died from leukemia in 1954 leaving Whitley with 4 children. He married Elizabeth Amestoy Stangier in 1958. They moved with their combined family of 6 children into a large home on Amalfi Drive in Pacific Palisades. The marriage ended with Elizabeth's death from cancer in 1979. Whitley's third marriage to Helena Tsakoumakis lasted 28 years. They resided in Ojai, California.
Whitley is survived by his wife, Helena (Nitsa), his sister Jean Bankier of New York as well as his children, Marshall Harris of Healdsburg, California, Denise Harris of Bainbridge Island, Washington, Melisse Herring of Bakersfield, California, and Celeste Harris of Bainbridge Island, Washington, and h is step children Jim Stangier of Seattle, Washington, Jan Carey of Fairfax, Virginia, John Tsakoumakis and Stamos Tsakoumakis, both of Los Angeles, eight grandchildren and five great grandchildren.
Whitley was known for his wit, ability to sing any song, tell a riveting story and pour a perfect cocktail. He will be missed.