For 33 years, after graduating from Hagerstown Junior College’s nursing program, she worked in her field.
She started at Reeders Nursing Home, then got a job as a medical-surgical nurse at Shady Grove Hospital in Rockville, Md., not long after it opened in 1980.
June was the recipient of Shady Grove Hospital’s first Compassionate Care award this year, receiving the most nominations from her peers throughout the hospital, not just in her department, said Kevin Harris, her husband of 32 years.
Kevin also worked at Shady Grove Hospital, and the couple worked different shifts so one of them always was home when their two children got home from school.
June Lowery grew up on Mansfield Road in Keedysville. She attended Keedysville Elementary School, then Boonsboro middle and high schools, graduating in 1977.
Kevin was born in Hagerstown, but grew up in Rockville. He returned to Washington County about two years before he met June.
The summer of her high school graduation, Kevin was asked to host a party for someone who was going into the U.S. Marine Corps. The Marine was a friend of June’s, so she was on the guest list
June and Kevin met for the first time at the party and at the end of the evening, Kevin walked home with June and her youngest brother. They sat at June’s kitchen table talking, and Kevin told her he wanted to marry her.
“It was love at first sight, as you say,” Kevin said.
June was just starting nursing school and wanted to wait until she graduated to get married. They were wed in her home church, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Keedysville, on Aug. 18, 1979.
June wore a wedding gown crocheted by her mother, Shirley Lowery, who also was a nurse. Working on a tight budget, June and Shirley sewed the bridesmaid dresses and prepared all of the food for the reception.
“It was for cost-saving, but also the country family thing to do,” Kevin said.
The couple lived in Gaithersburg, Md., for a year, then returned to Washington County.
They lived in a farmhouse on Park Hall Road in Boonsboro, then purchased property from the farmer and built a house next to the farm. Kevin took a month off from work in October 1993 to get the house framed, and with the help of family and friends, it was completed in August 1995.
Over the years, the extended family relied on June for nursing advice and care, Kevin said.
“She was the nurse of the family, the big sister,” Kevin said. “Any time anybody got hurt, she was constantly getting phone calls. She just took care of everybody who needed help.”
Family was important to June. Daughter Sarah Harris said her mother was good at bringing both sides of the family together and that family was always welcome.
“No one knocks,” Sarah said. “We just walk into each other’s houses. Family always rotates in and out.”
Sarah was born in 1985, followed by son Joshua three years later. A blood test with June’s second pregnancy indicated some lower than normal levels, but not enough to concern the doctor, Kevin said.
When Joshua wasn’t eating properly and vomiting bile as an infant, he was rushed to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, where he was diagnosed with Hirschsprung’s disease, a lack of nerve ganglia in the colon, and Down syndrome.
June became a strong advocate for Joshua, who went to Marshall Street School for his elementary years, then Boonsboro Middle School and graduated from the Washington County Job Development Program at Marshall Street School.
“She wanted to make sure Josh had the best education,” said Sarah, who is a middle-school special-education teacher in Frederick County.
“She was determined to give him the best that was possible,” Kevin said. “She juggled that and raising a daughter.”
June was the third generation of her family to be a Pythian Sisters of Keedysville, and moved up through the ranks until she was grand chief from mid-1992 to mid-1993. The grand chief chooses a service project, and hers was a lending library for Marshall Street School while Joshua was a student there.
During Sarah’s middle-school years, June worked two jobs. She would get her children off to school, leave at 9 a.m. for her first job at a pain clinic, then work the 3-to-11 p.m. shift at the hospital.
“She loved it,” Kevin said. “She liked doing her job. She really liked working at the pain clinic.”
With Sarah involved in high school band and sports, June gave up her job at the pain clinic so she could be at all of Sarah’s games and performances.
“She came to every volleyball and basketball game and track meet. She came to every band concert and parade. She’d drive me to school in the morning. She was always there,” Sarah said.
June and Kevin would drop off coolers of food and drinks for team members, and June would provide medical care when an injury cropped up during games.
“The basketball girls loved her and called her ‘Mom,’” Sarah said.
Kevin and Sarah got involved in Civil War re-enacting, which held little interest for June. To entice her mother, Sarah sewed two dresses for June, which had the desired result.
“She didn’t enjoy it, but she came out because Sarah made clothes for her,” Kevin said.
June was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000. She had a double mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy. After five years, she was declared cancer-free.
In 2010, June found a lump near her clavicle. A test revealed the cancer was back, this time in her lymph nodes and bones.
She never gave up believing she would beat the cancer, and treatments seemed to be working until last summer, Sarah said. As a nurse, June knew the tremor in her left hand meant the cancer had gone to her brain, which an MRI confirmed.
“She kept holding out hope the chemo would work,” Sarah said.
June continued treatments until her white-blood-cell count was too low. She continued to work as a nursing supervisor, with Kevin driving her for the 60- to 90-minute commute each way after she stopped driving in late January.
“Going to work was normalcy, her regular routine,” Sarah said.
On May 5, she went to work after a radiation treatment and collapsed, the last day she worked at the hospital.
Kevin said June had a fear of death and wouldn’t talk about dying, so they found it best to go about life as though nothing was happening, for her sake.
June was “very stubborn,” and there were several medications she only would take from visiting Shady Grove nurses or if her doctor ordered it. Hospice was called in only in her last week of life.
“She was a tremendous nurse, but a terrible patient,” Kevin said.
The nonstop line of visitors for the four-hour viewing and standing-room-only crowd for her funeral said it all.
“She touched a lot of people,” Kevin said.
Editor’s note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs “A Life Remembered.” Each story in this continuing series takes a look back — through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others — at a member of the community who died recently. Today’s “A Life Remembered” is about June E. Harris, who died July 31 at the age of 53. Her obituary was published in the Aug. 1 edition of The Herald-Mail.