Obituaries » Herbert M. Harper
May 21, 1926 - April 25, 2017
Herbert Marion Harper, 90, claimed the promise of the Resurrection on Tuesday, April 25, 2017 at the V.A. Hospital in Salem, following a brief illness.
Herbert was born May 21, 1926, in Brookneal to the late Mabel Frances Foster Harper and Percy Jones Harper. He graduated from Brookneal High School in 1943 and was an apprentice machinist for the B&O Railroad before joining the Navy in 1944 where he trained to be a Signalman.
After boot camp at Camp Peary, he was assigned to the USS Barry (DD-248/APD-29). On May 25, 1945, during the Battle of Okinawa, his destroyer was struck by a kamikaze attack. He was severely wounded by shrapnel and spent the next 18 months recuperating from his injuries in several hospitals. Honorably discharged from the Navy in 1947, he worked for the Union Star of Brookneal and attended Virginia Commercial College in Lynchburg where he studied accounting and bookkeeping.
Herbert went to work for Virginia Episcopal School in November of 1950. This was the beginning of a 52-year career working for “The School” in various positions. Initially hired as the Bursar, he became passionate about tending the grounds and facilities of VES. He became the Director of Grounds and Physical Plant in 1976 and served in that capacity until his semi-retirement in 1991 at the age of 65. Certainly no one knew “The School” better than he. From 1991 until 2002 he served as the school’s mailman and transported students to doctors’ appointments. He enjoyed interacting with people and especially loved making the students laugh with a well-aimed quip or joke.
A farmer at heart, Herbert always had a beautiful vegetable garden, the bounty of which he happily shared with friends and neighbors. He voraciously read anything and everything about the history of World War II. Herbert was also a hot rod enthusiast and enjoyed the racetracks at South Boston and Martinsville. Herbert’s favorite teams were the Washington Redskins and his beloved Detroit Tigers. Herbert’s war injuries kept him from being a conventional athlete; however, he and his late friend, Rock Lee, were the undisputed champions of VES’s annual faculty-student horseshoe tournament, winning the title for ten years in a row.
During an interview conducted by VES’s former Librarian, the late Mr. Jay Hight, Herbert stated that he was especially proud when his two sons, who were born and raised on campus, graduated from VES: Garland ’71 and Tom ’80. Another great joy of his was observing the sons of alumni, who had been students during his early years, also receive their education at VES.
He is survived by his devoted wife of 39 years, Geraldine Holt Elder Harper of Lynchburg; his three children, from his previous marriage to Ann Murray Harper; Garland Richard Harper (Peggy), Claudia Ann Mann (Duke) all of Lynchburg, Thomas Herbert Harper (Melissa) of Atlanta, Ga.; five grandchildren, Taylor Murray Harper, Stephen Thomas Harper, Edward Mortimer, and Melanie Ann Harper; his step-daughter, Brenda Davidson (Mike) and their children, Marsha Davidson Carbon (Jim), Julie Davidson Guieb (Tony); step-great-grandchildren, Hannah and Max Carbon, Bella, Maya, Olivia, and Alex Guieb.
The family would like to thank the staff of the Virginia Veteran’s Care Center in Roanoke for their compassionate attention to Herbert during the two and a half years he was a resident there.
The family will greet friends from 10 until 11 a.m. at Hat Creek Presbyterian Church, 6073 Hat Creek Road, Brookneal, on Saturday, April 29, 2017 followed by a graveside service in the church cemetery. Military rites will be conducted at the grave by American Legion Post 36 of Altavista and Post 232 of Gretna.
Memorial contributions may be made to Virginia Episcopal School, 400 V.E.S. Road, Lynchburg, VA 24503, or the Indigent Resident Care Fund, at the Virginia Veterans Care Center, 4550 Shenandoah Avenue, Roanoke, VA 24017.