Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 16, 2018

Bob Harper

May 16, 2018
Bob Harper

Bob Harper, age 83, passed away on April 30th in Oklahoma after an extended struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. He will be remembered for his devotion to learning and work, as an outstanding provider for his family, a mentor to many, and a great storyteller. Bob was born to Paul and Pauline Harper and felt fortunate to have grown up in Fairfield, Iowa. He attributed his later successes to the outstanding teachers and great classmates he had in Fairfield, where he developed a lifelong love for learning and a strong work ethic. Bob’s grandfather, A.K. Harper, founded Harper Brush Works in Fairfield in 1900, and work with the family-owned company allowed Bob to stay proudly connected to Fairfield nearly his entire life. In high school he played basketball and tuba, learned woodworking and welding, and developed an affinity for cars. He built furniture for his parents that is still being used today, and built a machine for Harper Brush Works that operated for over half a century. At college in Arkansas, in between classes and being a prankster, he was a fireman and chief of the college fire department. He earned his pilot’s license in college and eventually flew 28 different aircraft types. During summers he held two jobs back in Fairfield, working as a mechanic by day at Harper Brush Works and as a night machinist at Heston & Anderson. At the end of the summer in 1954, he married his high school sweetheart, Analee Galbraith. After graduating from John Brown University with a BS in Mechanical Engineering, he began work in aviation as a professional engineer at Tinker AFB, OK in 1956. He and Analee started a family shortly after. Following the early death of his father in 1960, Bob began service on an executive committee at Harper Brush Works, then was elected chairman of the board in 1967, a post he held for many years spanning five decades. Always busy, he was an auto rebuilder, landlord, hunter, farmer, cattle rancher, arborist (planting thousands of trees), small business owner, homebuilder, executive, and a world traveler, visiting over 60 countries. He was a devout scholar, and still enjoyed taking courses 70 years after starting kindergarten with Miss Rainey at Logan School. He earned an MBA from Oklahoma City University, then an MA in Public Administration from the University of Oklahoma, where he previously taught as adjunct professor of aeronautical engineering. In 1977, he built a log cabin on Wolf Creek Pass in southwestern Colorado, and spent many summers there with Analee, hosting friends and family. After training in law enforcement he was commissioned in 1982, and spent 17 years as a reserve deputy for the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office, with 8 years as chief of a reserve patrol unit. He retired from Tinker in 1988 after 32 years of civil service, but continued work as chairman of both Harper Brush Works in Iowa and TxF Products in Texas, also serving two years as CEO and plant manager in Texas. Bob and Analee lived in Midwest City for 38 years, then built a home in Choctaw where they enjoyed rural life for 15 years until Analee’s death, months shy of their 60th anniversary. He spent the last couple years of his life at the Epworth Villa retirement community in Oklahoma City. As a final act of generosity, Bob donated his body for medical research. He is survived by his son, David Harper and David’s partner Linda Nix, daughters Carol Jones and Paula Howard and son-in-law Bill Howard. He leaves four grandchildren, Courtney Fairbanks, Cailee Kies, Conner Howard and Ryan Howard; his fourth great-grandchild was born two days before his death. The oldest of five children, he also leaves brothers Bill and Barry Harper and sister Bonny Adams; sister Betty Harper preceded him. The family is grateful to caregiver Debbie Rork, whose tireless devotion ensured Bob spent his last years living with comfort and dignity. A memorial service will be held at 10:00 Saturday, June 2nd at Hibbs Funeral Home in Choctaw, OK. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, www.curealz.org.

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