Cover photo for Gillian Graham Harrison's Obituary
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1947 Gillian 2020

Gillian Graham Harrison

November 24, 1947 — June 12, 2020

Gillian Graham Harrison, of Carbondale, departed this life on June 12, 2020. She was born November 24, 1947 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Her parents Eelin Stewart Harrison and George J. Harrison preceded her in death as did her sisters Susan Harrison and Marta Reily. She is survived by her brother Jack (Barb) Harrison, nieces, nephews and an extended family of beloved cousins. Her life was blessed and enriched by her partner, James Chapman, who she loved dearly, and she left many loving friends in all parts of the world.

Early school years found her in New York City and Baton Rouge. She spent her high school years in Carbondale, graduating from University High School in 1965. After undergraduate studies at LSU, Gillian spent time having adventures and traveling including living on a kibbutz in Israel and hitchhiking through Africa. Her studies led to a Ph.D. in Health Education followed by a period of teaching. After returning to Carbondale to help her mother, Gillian completed a Master’s Degree in Social Work at SIUC and became a Medical Social Worker. She provided diligent and caring service to innumerable patients and families in area hospitals over the course of her final career.

As a young woman Gillian began her Buddhist practice at the San Francisco Zen Center. There she met Korean Zen Master Seung Sahn, founder of the international Kwan Um school of Zen, who would be her teacher at the Providence Zen Center in Providence, RI where she lived for several years and took the Buddhist precepts. Many years later Gillian took The Rev. Paul Yuanzhi Lynch as her teacher, renewing her commitment to The Buddhist teachings. She loved to talk to people about the Buddhist teachings and meditation, often quoting her teacher, Zen Master Seung Shan, “Don’t know, only go straight.” Gillian was a friend and mentor to many people on the Buddhist path and was involved with Shawnee Dharma and Awakening Heart Dharma Group in Carbondale. Besides her Buddhist path, she found much solace and companionship in the Carbondale Unitarian Fellowship and the Gaia House.

A celebration of life will be held at a later date. Memorial gifts may be made to The Center for Empowerment and Justice, 213 North Washington Street, Carbondale, Illinois 62901 or the Carbondale Unitarian Fellowship.

Meredith Funeral Home in Carbondale assisted the family with arrangements. To share a story or memory of Carolyn visit

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