Donald (Donnie) Harris, Jr. died December 19th, 2023, in Indianapolis a few days before his 58th birthday. Donnie was born December 28, 1965, the only child to Donald, Sr. and Lucille Harris, originally from Jamaica.
When he was young, Donnie’s mother called him “Don Don” and gave him his first basketball. Donnie grew up in the Butler-Tarkington area going to IPS #43 and #86 before becoming a basketball star at Broad Ripple High School. The Harris’s were members of North United Methodist Church where they became friends with the Blankenbaker family when Donnie was six years old.
After Donnie’s father died when he was thirteen, he managed his mother’s household on his own until she became sick and needed to be hospitalized. During that time and with Lucillie’s blessing, Richard and Virginia Blankenbaker, informally adopted Donnie so he could be supported as he finished high school. Mr. Blankenbaker, who Donnie called his godfather, always credited Donnie’s “good start in life” provided by Donald, Sr. and Lucille.
Donnie excelled on the court in basketball and in the classroom as a student. He graduated BRHS in 1984 with a B average and 40th in a class of 371. Donnie earned a basketball scholarship to play under Coach Steve Yoder at the University of Wisconsin. He later left college to care for his mother.
Donnie’s life was a story of contrasts and always looking for the place where he belonged. At 5-foot-10, he was too small to become a basketball star, but he worked hard and became the best passer in the state. He was soft-spoken but loved to talk. He had many hardships in life but always found a way. At times during his life, he experienced homelessness, so he was proud of the low-income housing he lived in at 14th and Pennsylvania Streets. That’s where he died alone December 19th with no family or significant other to claim his body, until his Broad Ripple classmates came together to claim him. Classmate Bill Myers said, “we will send our beloved Broad Ripple Rocket, Donnie Harris, soaring gracefully into the skies, towards a realm of eternal peace and glory.”