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Lifestyles

April 9, 2014

Pat Harrison is selling a dream in Southern Indiana

Successful Realtor turns diagnosis into personal passion

JEFFERSONVILLE — Sherry Jones stopped by the other day with a check for Pat Harrison plus a pledge to model.

Another Harrison cause was that much closer to the success Harrison absolutely always expects.

“She doesn’t take no for an answer,” banker Jones said of real estate diva Harrison, who is, in this instance, co-chair of a Mother’s Day tea and fashion show to benefit The Arts Council of Southern Indiana.

Harrison will pack the show if anyone can. To be her friend, even to be her ally, comes with costs along with benefits. Jones cannot overstate Harrison’s overdrive. Perhaps no one has sold more homes in Southern Indiana.

In business since the late 1960s, Harrison claims more than $3 million in sales already this year and counts a $28 million year her best among many, many good ones.

“I believe I’m the best Realtor in Southern Indiana,” Harrison told me after Jones’ visit to Harrison’s RE/MAX office across from Meijer in New Albany.

“I’m sorry but I’ll just tell you.”

And I’ll just tell you that whatever Harrison asks of others she asks more of herself. She is in deeper than ever — in personally for $300,000 toward $800,000 to establish a top-notch resource center in Jeffersonville for cancer patients. The center will open because of Harrison’s determination along with the slick fundraising expertise of Norton Healthcare. It will be everything Harrison believes people with cancer need and deserve.

“This project — she was the deal on it,” Lynnie Meyer, Norton’s chief development officer, said of Harrison.

The center is to take over a large old building — initially a house — across Spring Street from Clark Memorial Hospital. The hospital, along with the Norton Cancer Institute, will team to provide free guidance and therapies and materials for whoever asks. It will offer massages and wigs, prosthetics, knowledge and shoulders on which to learn.

Some of this is currently handy, but at no level approaching Harrison’s hope. Plus sure, while resources are plentiful in Louisville, not everyone feels comfortable navigating the big city.

“It’s just my attitude, I can change it,” Harrison said of the status quo she confronts. “If I can do it, I’ll do it.”

Why cancer? Why Jeffersonville? Harrison discovered a pea-sized lump in her left breast about one year ago, only a year after her latest thumbs-up mammogram.

“I put it off [an exam] until after [last May’s] style show, hoping it would go away,” Harrison said. “It wouldn’t.”

Finally diagnosed, initiated into the biggest club no one likes to join, Harrison said it took her no time at all to choose a double mastectomy. She wanted to be as free of worry as quickly and completely possible and, of course, to get back to winning the real estate game.

“I’m not glad I had cancer but I don’t look for excuses,” Harrison said. “I just took it on, faced life as it is.”

Harrison was operated on at Clark Memorial, after which she was referred to an indeed-modest supply of resources.

“It wasn’t professional, nothing made sense,” Harrison said.

Like that, Harrison’s most-daunting challenge yet was clear. Harrison began making calls, winning backers, selling ever as naturally as she breathes.

“I’ve got to open doors to more people,” Harrison said.

Before her teen years, Harrison sold parking spots in her family’s yard in south Louisville to Kentucky Derby goers. Harrison has a knack, no doubt, an unrelenting drive that still makes her something of a lightning rod in the ultra-competitive real estate community.

“It’s not luck,” Julie Schweitzer, executive director of the Arts Council, said of Harrison. “She works harder than any woman I know. Twenty four-seven, she’s working. It’s not like it [success] just falls in her lap.”

A tiny woman, surely blond until the day she dies, Harrison continues charging without a hint of retirement or retreat.

“It’s not about houses, it’s about people,” she said of her motivation past, present and future.

Harrison is among the Arts Council’s top boosters and also has thrown the area’s children a grand party for 28 Halloweens. She was too the driving force behind an art gallery and clock plaza at Ivy Tech Community College in Sellersburg. And she now also leads an effort to save for public access hundreds or thousands of old property abstracts.

Then there one day will be The Norton Cancer Institute Pat Harrison Resource Center.

“Pat obviously believes in stepping up, in taking ownership of something, in taking pride in the community,” Meyer said.

“She feels pride. We wants to be champion and to bring other people along.”

Harrison’s cell phone rang again and again during our visit. Harrison can neither stop selling nor serving.

“I want to leave a footprint,” she said.

— Send column ideas to dale.moss@twc.com

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