Living a life to rival a Hollywood action story is something few can claim. Harry Harper was one of the few.
Colonel William H. (Harry) Harper, of Tallahassee, FL, passed away on December 23 at 88. For more than 60 of those years, he was airborne. Harry logged 14,000 hours in his flying career. His time at the stick included six years flying helicopters for Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson. The Tallahassee Airport inducted Harry into its Aviation Hall of Fame, and the Federal Aviation Administration awarded him the Wright Brothers Master Pilot award for 60 years of continuous safe flying.
Well after he stopped flying professionally, he remained passionate about aviation. In his beloved v-tail Bonanza, he ferried friends and family to destinations in the Caribbean and Canada and across the United States. He also founded Eagle Aircraft Corporation, chartering flights and training aspiring pilots at the Tallahassee Airport.
Harry was born in Birmingham, Alabama, on April 13, 1926, the only child of Harold and Gladys Petree Harper. In 1947, he married Jean Lipscomb, and they raised three children: Gail, Harry, and Tina.
Harry attended the Citadel before enlisting in the US Army at eighteen, the start of a distinguished 30-year military career.
In addition to his White House service, he commanded the 13th Combat Aviation Battalion in the Mekong delta in Vietnam in 1967. In that role, he led missions to rescue U.S. infantry in peril. His heroism earned Harry the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit, and 22 air medals.
After Harry retired from the military in 1975, he and his wife Jean moved to Tallahassee. He served as an information officer for the Florida Department of Natural Resources and as a Lieutenant Colonel, chief pilot, and Chief of the Bureau of Operations in the Florida Marine Patrol.
In addition to flying, Harry was a championship golfer and marksman, who frequently claimed his buddies’ allowances after friendly bets at local golf courses and shooting ranges. Harry loved his family, friends, and animals. He will be particularly remembered for his unparalleled joie de vivre. Harry was always the life of the party.
Harry is survived by his wife of 67 years, Jean, his son Harry of Panama City, his daughter Gail (and son-in-law Frank Flynn) of Fort Lauderdale and New York City, and his daughter Kristina (and son-in-law Don Swenholt) of Washington, D.C.
A graveside service will be held on Saturday, December 27th, at 2:00 pm at Roselawn Cemetery, 815 Piedmont Drive, in Tallahassee. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Goose Creek Wildlife Sanctuary, 3400 Williams Road, Tallahassee, FL, 32311.
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