James E. Harrell MD
December 26, 1938 – May 11, 2018
James Edward Harrell, M.D., died peacefully at home, surrounded by his wife and four children, on May 11, 2018. He lived a life full of love, family, giving, and service to his community and his country.
The son of Dr. O.E. Harrell and Margaret Hughes Harrell, James was born in Jacksonville, FL, and is the second of five children in a close knit family. He graduated from Landon High School in 1956 and was a proud member of the Jacksonville American Red Cross Life Saving Corps. He went to the University of Florida where he was a member of the Kappa Alpha Fraternity and studied Medicine. In 1964 he received his M.D. degree from the University of Florida. He interned at Charity Hospital in New Orleans, joined the U.S. Army Reserves and married his college sweetheart, Gayle Bauer. In 1965 he began active duty service with the U.S. Army spending his initial tour at Ft. Ritchie, MD. He then went on to serve in Vietnam, as a doctor with the 25th Infantry Division in Cu Chi and with the 65th Combat Engineers.
In 1971, James and his young family moved to Stuart, Florida. He was the 20th doctor in town when he started his Ob-Gyn practice. He was joined the following year by Dr. Larry Holder and Dr. Bill Hewson and they became known as the “3 H’s.” In 1985 he began his James E. Harrell, M.D.P.A. gynecology practice.
When James was 17 years old, he saved two children from drowning in the Atlantic Ocean as a volunteer of the Jacksonville American Red Cross Life Saving Corps. This set him on a lifelong path of service to others.
Service to his profession included time spent as President of the Martin County Medical Society. He also served at the state level on numerous Florida Medical Association Councils. He was a member of the American Medical Association for 45 years and also was a member of the Florida Ob-Gyn Society and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Early in his career, James realized that indigent and immigrant obstetrical patients received no prenatal care in Stuart, so he and his partners worked with the local health department to provide this service. He started a clinic in Indiantown, and his wife, Gayle, would translate for patients who only spoke Spanish. Often, his patients couldn’t pay Dr. Harrell for their pre-natal care, deliveries, and surgeries. He was known to accept as payment anything from a bag of oranges to fish caught in the St. Lucie River. When the AIDS epidemic first made itself known in the early 1980’s, Dr. Harrell and his partners were among the few doctors on the Treasure Coast willing to treat HIV positive patients. In his life he delivered 4,000 babies.
For all of his medical career Dr. James Harrell sought to promote the health and well-being of women. Ending domestic violence became his cause, and in 1997 he was appointed to the Governor’s Task Force on Domestic and Sexual Violence. He also served on the Board of Directors of SafeSpace, and authored several FMA courses on Domestic Violence.
His other community and state activities included involvement in the local Vietnam Veterans of America, Elks Lodge #2658, The Library Foundation of Martin County, The Martin County Gator
Club, The Republican Club of Martin County and the Civitan Club. He was also a 40-year member of the First Presbyterian Church in North River Shores. In 2012, he won the American Diabetes Association Father-of-the Year Award.
After his service in Vietnam, where he was exposed to Agent Orange, James was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, also known as Juvenile Diabetes. While he never let this disease affect his ability to serve his community and love his family and friends, it took a toll on his physical body. After suffering kidney failure in 2000, his dear friend and fellow medical professional, Mrs. Sue Morris of Gainesville, FL, donated her kidney to him. The 2001 transplant saved his life and allowed him to live to see all of his children married, his grandchildren born, and his wife elected eight times into the Florida House of Representatives.
In retirement, Dr. Harrell took on a new, supporting role to his wife, Gayle, in her political career. No one was a bigger advocate for Representative Gayle Harrell than her adoring husband James. He was convinced he had married the smartest, prettiest woman that ever lived and would tell that to anyone and everyone, along with stories of her accomplishments as a wife, mother, and professional.
James was famous for his saying, “What’s the 11th commandment?” He would then answer the question with: “Thou shalt not sweat it.” He truly believed one should “not sweat the small stuff” in life.
More than anything, he was a devoted family man. He and Gayle raised four children and delighted in their eight grandchildren. He was a kind, supportive, and compassionate man, with a love of God, country, and family.
James is survived by his wife, Florida House Representative Gayle Harrell, his daughters, Stephanie Harrell, Jennifer Sobanet, Jamie Harrell, and Melinda Johnson, and their children, James, Jupiter and Justice Johnson, Nicole and Anna Harrell, and Aaron, Tyler and Nicholas Johnson. He is also survived by his siblings Martin Harrell of Norcross, Georgia, John Harrell of Panama City, FL, Mary Jane McKnight of Jacksonville, FL and William Harrell of Jacksonville Florida, as well as numerous nieces and nephews who loved and adored him.
There will be a viewing on Sunday, May 13, from 4 pm to 6 pm at Aycock Funeral Home in Jensen Beach. There will then be a private burial. On Monday, May 14, there will be a Celebration of Life service and reception at 4pm at the First Presbyterian Church of Stuart in North River Shores on 1715 NW Pine Lake Dr.
If you wish to make a donation in lieu of flowers, the family asks you to make a donation to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (jdrf.org), SafeSpace (safespacefl.org, 612 SE Dixie Hwy, Stuart, FL 34994) or a charity of your choice.
- James is survived by his wife, Florida House Representative Gayle Harrell, his daughters, Stephanie Harrell, Jennifer Sobanet, Jamie Harrell, and Melinda Johnson, and their children, James, Jupiter and Justice Johnson, Nicole and Anna Harrell, and Aaron, Tyler and Nicholas Johnson. He is also survived by his siblings Martin Harrell of Norcross, Georgia, John Harrell of Panama City, FL, Mary Jane McKnight of Jacksonville, FL and William Harrell of Jacksonville Florida, as well as numerous nieces and nephews who loved and adored him.
- Visitation Sunday, May 13, 2018
- Celebration of Life Service Monday, May 14, 2018
- Aycock Funeral Home
James E. Harrell MD
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May 15, 2018
It is heartwrenching to hear this sad news (after his service). I last enjoyed a great conversation with Dr. Harrell in October and he was so full of life and encouraged. He enlightened me on his most recent procedure and was hopeful all was good to go! He certainly has an impeccable legacy, was well-respected and admired and leaves us many lessons in life to emulate. I know that his family is very proud of all of his accomplishments and the goodwill he spread on earth. While earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal, we will surely miss him .... until we meet again in heaven. RIP good and faithful servant. Representative Harrell, you and your family are very deep in both my thoughts and prayers and I'm hoping the wonderful memories help ease your pain. With my most sincere sympathy,
May 15, 2018
Prayers for the family. So sorry for your loss. May he rest in peace.
May 14, 2018
I will always remember dancing with Doc and Gayle at the annual Republican Christmas parties. The last time I saw him was at the Capitol in Tallahassee at Sharkey's. I was sitting with a group of Cannabis activists eating lunch when he recognized me and came over to eat his lunch with us. Doc was a true gentleman and will be missed.
May 14, 2018
My heart and prayers go out to the Harrell family at this difficult time. I first met Dr. James Harrell decades ago when I began lobbying for the Florida OB-GYN Society. Dr. Harrell was always at our conventions, along with Gayle of course, and was the leader in our CME classes on domestic violence.........his dedication to women's health care was steadfast and exemplary.
Even while visiting Dr. Harrell in the hospital during his kidney transplant over 17 years ago, he had a warm and kind smile. He always wanted YOU to feel good, no matter what he was dealing with.
He did, and always will, worship Gayle.............he was her biggest fan. Their journey of love and loyalty is an example to us all. He will be missed at the halls of the Capitol and in all of our hearts.
God speed, Dr. Harrell. We will see you on the other side.
May 14, 2018
We are so sorry for your loss. Dr. Harrell was not only a friend of mine who's warmth filled the room, but he was a friend to my children. Whenever we were in his company, Dr. Harrell would talk with Gage and Vivi. He was especially proud of my son and supportive of his swimming; he'd always tell Gage to keep it up and he'd share stories of his swimming days. In fact, Doc was always telling stories, usually centered around his family. He was so very proud of you all!
Leona (Lee) Quigley (Nelson)
May 14, 2018
Gayle and Family,
I was so saddened to learn of James's death. He was such a shining light to our community and obviously an absolute blessing to your family, which he deeply loved.
My first professional experience working with him as an OB nurse led to my later opportunity to be a nurse practitioner in the "3-H's" office where he was one of my great physician back-ups. He taught me so much for which I was thankful.
The last time I saw him was at a Celebration of Life service for our mutual colleague Bill Hewson. James was as sharp as ever and had great things to say about his wife and family and some of his activities. He was living a full life and enjoying every minute of it.
It was good to see him in such wonderful spirits.
I know that the void left by James's passing will remain.
My condolences and prayers are extended to you all.
May 13, 2018
Dr. Harrell was the first physician I worked with when I moved to Jensen Beach in 1972. I had just graduated from Nursing School, so needless to say I had a lot to learn, and was blessed with the best teacher of medicine, Dr. Harrell. I worked with Dr. Harrell to the end of 1975, so the memories are endless with the three H's, but one I would like to share. Every week Dr. Harrell and I would travel to Indiantown in his infamous yellow Mustang, without air !! We would take care of the needs of the patients in a Clinic that were unable to come to Stuart. I remember it being so hot in the office, but it didn't seem to matter, because the patients were so appreciative. While traveling back home, Dr. Harrell would love to pretend the car was running out of gas!! I would start to panic, and he would laugh, " Got you Linda " Believe it or not, I fell for this joke several times .
Gayle please accept my sincere condolences on the loss of your beloved husband, and my condolences to your children as well.
There will be only one Dr. Harrell, and I am so thankful that I was a small part of his life in medicine.
Respectfully, Linda Wilkes R.N. Wake Forest, N.C.
May 13, 2018
I had the privilege of working with Dr Harrell. You have my deepest sympathy.
May 12, 2018
Dr. Harrell spoke to our class at MCHS around 1977. We were impressed by his gentle strength, his military service, and candid advice to us. Shortly after, I saw him as a patient. At 16, he treated me like an adult. I am ever grateful for his kind guidance.
May 12, 2018
In what now seems like a different life, Dr. Harrell provided care to a poor single mother in her early twenties, who had just been informed of a precancerous condition, for which I had no money to manage the necessary treatment. Dr Harrell was the kindest, most generous professional, both in his bedside manner, as well as his generous offer to reduce the cost of the procedure to make it affordable. He made this offer repeated and incrementally, until he could tell he reached an amount I could afford. I have reflected back many times over the years on that memory of his kindness with gratitude and a desire to pay it forward. I am now a licenced psychotherapist working for a non-profit doing just that, and hopefully embodying the same spirit of kindness.
May 12, 2018
I am so sorry Gayle. I know you miss him. He always had your back. One year you were in DC and he went to the Rick Scott campaign breakfast by himself. He was the first to greet him and I was standing next to Dr. Harrell. It was the evening after Rick Scott debated Charlie Crist and the Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium. He said something really funny to Rick Scott about the fan incident. I am going to miss him. I am so sorry. He was always a friendly face in the crowd that I gravitated to. And he was a veteran. Please take care of yourself
May 12, 2018
My wife Linda and myself last saw Dr. Harrell and Gayle about a year ago. They had just returned from one of many trips to Tallahassee. Once our visit was up, we got to leave when he turned to me and said "we did good , didn't we"? And I responded, " yes sir, we did". That was Dr Harrell.
Always the 'southern gentleman'.
Peace to his family at this time.
Wake Forest, North Carolina
Richard Raborn MD
May 12, 2018
A Physician's Life well lived. I believe we once talked about Charity Hospital training where my father Robert was in the 1940s and myself in 1970s. We shared concern about the underserved he so greatly helped. He asked about The Caridad Center where I had volunteered. True inspiration!
May 12, 2018
To The Harrell Family,
May The Beautiful Memories Of A Life Well Lived Help You During These Sad and Difficult Times.
God Bless The Family Today , Tomorrow and Always.