Remembering Sylvia “Cookie” Harris, wife of Republican Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland

Remembering Sylvia “Cookie” Harris, wife of Republican Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland

By Nicole Gaudiano Via Gannett News Service-

Sylvia “Cookie” Harris, longtime wife of Republican Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland, is being remembered Friday, Aug. 29, as a devoted mother, a dear friend and a dedicated anti-abortion advocate.

Cookie Harris, who would have turned 58 on Sunday, died unexpectedly Thursday after being taken to a hospital. Her husband was with her when she died. The cause of death was unclear.

According to Rep. Harris’ congressional web page, he and his wife had been married more than 30 years. They have five children.

The congressman’s office released a brief statement Thursday evening:

“Sylvia ‘Cookie’ Harris, beloved wife of over 30 years to Congressman Andy Harris, devoted mother of five and grandmother to two, and devout Catholic, unexpectedly passed away on Thursday, Aug. 28. The family is thankful for the thoughts and prayers that so many have offered already and appreciates privacy during this time.”

Rep. Harris has been Maryland’s 1st District congressman — representing the Eastern Shore — since 2011. Friends who knew Cookie Harris from working on her husband’s campaigns were shocked to learn she had died.

Ellen Sauerbrey, a former Maryland lawmaker and Republican gubernatorial candidate, said Cookie Harris was “always radiating good health.”

“I don’t think people can quite get a grip on something that happens so suddenly,” she said.

Anita Schatz, a Baltimore County volunteer coordinator for the Harris campaign, said people gravitated toward Cookie Harris.

“You wanted her hug,” she said. “You wanted her smile. Her smile lit up the room.”

Cookie Harris served as director of special events for Maryland Right to Life, working on the annual banquet, biannual convention and the group’s participation in the Maryland State Fair, which continues through Labor Day. A statement on the group’s web site called Harris a “dear friend” and said, “She will be missed.”

Schatz, who is also involved in the anti-abortion cause for Defend Life, said Cookie Harris juggled raising a family with tireless work for Maryland Right to Life, coordinating large-scale banquets, silent auctions and other events to raise money and awareness.

“She wasn’t looking for hoopla and credit for herself,” she said. “She just got out there, she got the job done. I saw what she put into it and it was amazing how organized she was.”

Cookie Harris also touched many lives while volunteering at a North Baltimore crisis pregnancy center, where she also was a board member, said Maryland state Del. Kathy Szeliga, who served as Harris’ chief of staff in the state Senate from 2004 to 2010.

Raised in Puerto Rico, Cookie Harris was bilingual. Szeliga remembered hearing her on the phone at home coaching women in Spanish through the difficulties of an unplanned pregnancy.

“She was very passionate about helping women and babies,” Szeliga said. She described Cookie Harris as a “godly woman, devoted to her family and (with) a passion for pro-life issues.”

Maryland Republican state Sen. Richard Colburn, who represents part of the Eastern Shore, said Cookie Harris’ pro-life advocacy stood out most for him. He remembered her as a regular figure at an annual dinner in Baltimore recognizing pro-life legislators.

“She was a very uplifting lady, always full of life” he said. “This is obviously a lesson to all of us as to how fragile life is.”

Sauerbrey said she was glad Cookie Harris had the opportunity to visit her family recently in Puerto Rico. Harris also was able to see her oldest daughter Becky married earlier this month on the Eastern Shore.

Cookie Harris was a “phenomenal mother” who was dedicated to her family and always supportive of her husband, Sauerbrey said.

“It’s not easy to be the spouse of someone who is in office and running for office, but she was somebody who was always there for Andy and made sure that he came home to a happy home,” she said.

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio offered thoughts and prayers to the Harris family via Twitter, calling Cookie Harris “a devoted mother & powerful voice for the unborn.”

Reaction and condolences began pouring in from Maryland on Thursday evening.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, tweeted, “We extend our deepest condolences to Cong. Andy Harris on the tragic loss of his wife. Our thoughts & prayers are with the Harris family.”

Larry Hogan, Maryland GOP gubernatorial candidate, speaking for himself and his wife, said, “Words cannot adequately express how heartbroken Yumi and I are to learn of Cookie Harris’ sudden and tragic death. Our deepest condolences and prayers are with Andy and his children Joe, Becky, Irene, Jessica and Danny.”

The Maryland Republican Party described Cookie Harris as “a devout Catholic and strong advocate of the Maryland Right to Life organization.”

“We are shocked and saddened by the news,” said Diana Waterman, chairwoman of the state party. “Cookie was a truly wonderful person and the MDGOP’s thoughts, prayers and support go out to her family.”

A funeral mass will be held Monday at 11 a.m. at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore, according to Rep. Harris’ office. Archbishop William Edward Lori of the Archdiocese of Baltimore will preside.

Visitation will take place at Ruck Funeral Home at 1050 York Road in Towson, Md., on Sunday from 1 p.m.-8 p.m., with a vigil beginning at 7 p.m.

The family has asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Cookie Harris’ memory to Pregnancy Center North at 6805 York Road in Baltimore.

Contributing: The Associated Press and Phillip Davis, the Daily Times

Delmarva Now



  1. My deepest sympathies to the family and friends. My prayers will be joined with all the others as the struggle to find peace and sense the comfort of the Holy Spirit as they mourn this immense and sudden loss.

    Thank you for sharing this, Alexis.

  2. Char in ND says:

    Thanks for the post, Alexis.

    She was a leader among many of us who defend the unborn. I know in my heart that this is what God expects from all of us. Never fail to stand up for those without a voice.

    • I know in the future people will wonder how so many people allowed the barbaric murder of innocent babies to continue. It really is like the slavery issue of our times. Abortion is unthinkable. It’s so horrid. We just have to continue to get the message and the truth out there. Losing Cookie at such a young age is a loss to the Maryland life movement but hopefully she can inspire others to follow in her footsteps and work hard for this noble cause. May she rest in peace and I hope everyone prays for her sad family because she will be greatly missed.

    • I just want to say a big AMEN to both Char and Alexis. I am so sorry for your loss but as you said, you must carry on even if in her honor!

      • You are so right, Rhonda. Carry on we shall. Tomorrow I will be in attendance at a service in my hometown. There is a monument in a cemetery here that memorializes aborted babies. There are services like this every year, held on the 2nd Saturday of September.

        This website has listings for the National Day of Remembrance.

        God bless you.

      • Char, thank you for posting this. I’ll put it on twitter too. God bless you for attending this.

      • God bless you both for stand up for those who cannot! I had no idea that this existed. I will see if there is something like this in my town. I know there is a ‘garden’ where babies are buried that have died prior to birth through the age of two. My grandson is buried there. I have not gone but to see the headstone that my daughter and her husband decided to use the money they got from his funeral for. I understand the reason for going to the cemetery for this event, but I don’t personally make it a practice of visiting the cemetery where loved ones are buried as I believe THEY aren’t there, just their “house” is there. They are in heaven as they were believers in Christ Jesus. I don’t condemn those who do go, but I personally don’t. But I would like to see if there is a group that convenes around this ‘garden’ where these babies are buried. Thank you ladies for what you are doing! God bless you both richly! With love in faith, Rhonda

      • I’m sorry about your grandson Rhonda



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