Elder Bobby Harris, the director of the House of Mercy, died at Columbus Hospice early Saturday night.
He was 64 years old.
His wife of 37 years, Johanne, who is now serving as interim director of the homeless shelter in Columbus, said he had been ill for quite awhile and on Tuesday transferred to the Columbus Hospice facility on Moon Road.
"I believe he would like to be remembered as a man who cared about people," she said. "He loved people and had a real concern about the less fortunate."
Harris, who served more than 21 years in the U.S. Navy, had been at the House of Mercy since returning to Columbus in 1993. He became director in 2006 after serving time as assistant director and also as chairman of the board.
His mother, Ocie Harris, known as "Mother Harris," began the The House of Mercy in 1977 in a Broadway storefront. It is now located at 1532 Third Ave. Her oft-quoted phrase was "Ain't God good?"
When she died in 1994, her daughter Theola Barrow took over as director, and Harris worked with his sister until her retirement in 2006.
At that time, Harris said that the work was challenging.
"Sometimes, I want to throw in my hat. My sister told me something the other day that is so true. In this position, you always live in a glass house. Somebody is always watching to see your next move and how you are going to handle it. And nobody is ever satisfied."
His wife said he loved the hard work.
"You can't do a job like he did unless you are called to it by the Lord," his wife said.
She said that a lot of progress has been made a the shelter through the years, but her husband always wanted to do more.
The shelter currently has approximately 60 residents.
Three days a week needy people can stop by the house and get clothing and furniture. Toys are provided at Christmas. There is a computer lab so people can apply for a job online.
In 2006, Harris said the goal was to get people a good, solid job.
House of Mercy Chairman of the Board Ted Jones called Harris "dedicated and compassionate."
"He was a very fine person. I enjoyed the opportunity to work with him. He was a good family man and a friend of mine. He will be deeply missed," Jones said.
House manager Oid Rich said Harris will be missed by those in the shelter.
"He was a great preacher," Rich said. "He was a real inspiration to those who reside here. He was a very confident person and very straight forward when he spoke to you."
Harris leaves behind three grown children, Bobby Harris Jr., Keisha Harris and Troy Hysmith.