James Harlan, Advocate For Families With Special Needs, Dies At 71

Tuesday, May 15, 2018 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews 

Featured image: James Harlan, left, with his son, Jason. | Photo submitted 

James Harlan, the president and founder of the Just for Men group, an affiliate of the Answer Inc., a prominent autism awareness nonprofit founded by his wife, Debra Vines, has died. In a Facebook post uploaded Monday, Vines said that her husband died on May 13. He was 71.

“It saddens me to say I lost the love of my life last night to Non Hodgkins Lymphoma Cancer,” Vines wrote. “He battled with dignity for 3 years. He will be missed by many.”

Vines and Harlan, both Maywood residents, were pushed into advocacy after their son, Jason, was born with autism.

That’s when they discovered that the amount of resources available to minority families caring for disabled children are relatively scarce, particularly if those families reside in low-income communities.

The struggle led Vines to found The Answer Inc. roughly a decade ago. The organization has since offered families in Proviso Township a range of critical resources, such as regular mentoring and tutoring, bullying prevention and wellness programs.

The nonprofit has also pushed for the passage of legislation designed to make life easier for families caring for disabled children and young adults.

In a 2015 interview with Village Free Press, Harlan said that, after his son’s diagnosis, it took him some time to process the information. Eventually, as Jason matured, Harlan developed a bond with his son worth emulating.

Observing other men process the fact of their children’s disabilities prompted Harlan to create the Just for Men group, an affiliate support system under The Answer’s umbrella of services.

“Watching Jason has made me appreciate the little things in life that I used to take for granted,” said Harlan, who over the years had become his son’s main caretaker as Vines built their nonprofit.

“I would rather be here with him knowing that he’s happy, he’s cared for and he’s safe,” Harlan noted in 2015. “I like being with him, he’s a good guy.”

Harlan’s funeral service will take place on Saturday, May 19, 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. (wake), and 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. (home-going celebration), at Jordan Temple Church, 4421 Roosevelt Rd. in Hillside, according to Vines. VFP

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3 thoughts on “James Harlan, Advocate For Families With Special Needs, Dies At 71”

  1. RIP. Mr. Harlan was a wonderful man. He was affectionately known as “Old School” at Proviso East and was an inspiration to our students and staff.

  2. Sending much love to you and your faimly!! You and your family truly have our condolences. Our family will continue to keep you and your faimly lifted in our prayers.

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