Hillsborough stories: Gary Harrison
A married father-of-two from Liverpool who worked as a driver, Gary Harrison travelled by coach with Stephen Francis Harrison, his older brother and another victim of the tragedy.
This is the full statement to the inquests read by his daughter Claire Harrison, on behalf of her mother, Karen Harrison:
Gary Harrison was 27 years old when he lost his life tragically at Hillsborough watching his beloved Liverpool in their FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest.
Gary was the youngest of seven brothers. As a child, he was very slim, which earned him the nickname 'Rib', a nickname which his brothers carried on into his adult life.
From a young age his obsession with football began. He played as much as he could, often joining in with his older brothers and their friends.
He was a talented footballer and was on Everton's books. Being a huge Liverpool fan, and Everton of course being their rival team, Gary would insist on taking his training kit in his red Liverpool FC bag which would, without fail, get him thrown out of the changing room each week.
Also, he represented Liverpool Schoolboys. His proudest moment was scoring two goals at Old Trafford against Manchester Boys. He could not wait to see the football Pink Echo the next day, but to his disappointment, they reported 'Gerry Harrison' had scored two goals and not 'Gary'.
Gary attended Netherley Comprehensive School. Whilst at school, his favourite subject was PE, a subject which he excelled in. At Netherley Comprehensive he met me. We were 14 years old.
We were courting for five years before getting married on 6 February 1981. We had two children, Claire and Paul. After leaving school, Gary mainly worked as a delivery driver. He also worked other jobs such as industrial cleaning at Stanlow.
'Watching his beloved Reds'
At home, Gary was always listening to music and the radio. Every weekend, we would listen to the Top 40. He was always singing and would have Claire dancing around the kitchen.
Besides our children, his other passion was going to watch his beloved Reds. From a young age, he often went to the games. As a youngster, he would go to the game with his brother Jimmy.
As he got older, he introduced his nephew Tony and my brother Neil to the match.
He was always a family-orientated man, spending as much time with his family as he could.
His closest friend was his brother Stephen, who also tragically lost his life at Hillsborough. Their friendship brought our two families closer.
We would often go on days out together, places like Rhyl Sun Centre and going to stay in the caravan in Wales for the weekend. Gary also grew close to my side of the family.
My mum would buy Gary a Christmas jumper each year, which we would religiously wear on Boxing Day. He also became very close to my younger sister Nicola. He treated her and regarded her as his own little sister.
Just weeks before he died, he was delighted at the birth of Nicola's first child. He was the one to drive her home from the hospital.
At 27 years of age, we were at the beginning of a happy marriage, a young family with a lot to look forward to in the future. Sadly, this was cut short.
'Bursting with pride'
My son Paul was just four years old when he lost his dad. He does not have a lot of memories about Gary, but he does have some distinct memories.
He recalls learning to ride his bike on the field facing our old house. When Paul fell off the bike onto the grass, Gary would laugh and tell him to get up and get back on. Gary told me it was toughening him up and he was learning to ride as well.
Paul also recalls going to work with him. One time he remembers for a brief moment being lost inside a factory. Shortly after, Gary appeared with two new toy cars for him, a white police car and a blue sports car.
One of Paul's fondest memories is when Gary would sit him on his knee in the car. Paul would pretend to be driving the car while Gary told him which way to go.
Paul was extremely close to him. People would often say, 'Where is your shadow?', as he was always by his side.
When Paul had to stay at my Mum's one night, he sat up and cried the entire time. The next morning when Gary went to get him, he promised Paul he would never leave him anywhere again.
On most of the photos Paul is with him. It has been difficult for Paul growing up without his Dad, missing out on special occasions: his first car, his first pint, getting his house.
Paul took on Gary's passion for football and Liverpool FC. I am sure Gary would have been bursting with pride when he signed a professional contract with Liverpool FC in 2013.
Paul has made a career in football, which I am sure makes Gary happy. My Dad took over the role when we lost Gary. He took Paul to all of his football commitments throughout his time at the Liverpool Academy.
They also had a season ticket together at Liverpool. Paul loves my Dad like a father, but I am sure that if Gary were here, he would have taken up that role and been immensely proud to do so.
'Hurts the most'
Claire was eight years old when she lost her Dad. She was also extremely close to him. He nicknamed her 'Dolly', which my Dad still calls her to this day. She has a lot of memories about her Dad.
She remembers when they would tape record their voices singing along to the Top 40. She still has a copy of the tape today. It is something she will always cherish, being able to listen to his voice.
One of her favourite memories is renting out videos on Saturday night. We would watch Rocky and Bruce Lee films. Before she would go to bed, Gary would tell her that he was in the SAS.
He would tell her that the helicopter was coming to pick him up soon from the front of the house. He was always joking and making her laugh.
As a joke, she would often put tins of salmon in his pockets when at her Nan's, then she would tell my Mum to check his pockets. This happened regularly. Everybody would play along.
When she celebrated her first Holy Communion, Gary hired a white car. He said he wanted it to feel special for her so she could feel like a bride.
On 26 July last year, she married her husband Keith. It is at times like these that the loss of her Dad hurts the most. I am sure it would have been a proud day for him to give her away.
After Gary died, Claire and Paul made some booklets about him and the memories they have. Paul talks about Gary's great sense of humour and the games they used to play.
Claire talks about her memories at the time, including me coming home with big red eyes on hearing the news, and of later being the mascot at the Liverpool game.
"These booklets are precious to Paul and I. I would like to read a few words from each. Please bear in mind that I was 8 years of age and Paul was only 4 at the time they were written.
This comes from my brother Paul's booklet:
'When he died, my Mum started to cry and my Nan started to cry, and I was sad, and Claire started to cry and everyone started to cry. And I never stopped thinking about him. As I went to sleep, I dreamed of my Dad and it was a very nice dream of my Dad. The next day, I forgot my Dad had died. I thought he would come back.'
This is a section from my booklet:
'I am writing about my Dad. His name was Gary. He was 27 when he died. The last time I saw my Dad was the Friday before he died. He took me down to my Nan's. My Nan, Mum and me went to my Nan's friends. The next day my Dad went to a football match with my uncle Stephen. Later on, the news came on again and said that 95 people had died. My mum started crying. My Nan said, "Don't worry, nothing will have happened to Gary".
The next day my Mum went to Sheffield. She phoned. My Nan picked up the phone. When my Nan put the phone down, everybody was crying. At first I thought they were just crying for relief, but later on, when my Mum came home, she had big red eyes. Later on, my Nan called me and our Paul in and told us what had happened. I did not understand at the time. I was only eight.'
I would just like to add that Gary was a good family man, a good father. He was extremely loving and protective towards his family.
On behalf of our family, I would like to thank you for letting us share some of our memories about a husband, a father, brother, uncle and son who tragically lost his life watching a Liverpool football match."