May 15, 1943 – December 15, 2021
It is with great sadness we announce the passing of John Harold Harper on December 15th at the age of 78 years, following a difficult and courageous three-year battle with prostate cancer.
John is lovingly remembered by his wife of 46 years, Denise; daughters Karen Gero, Brenda Bleiler (Jack) and Kathleen Dubois (Rick); grandchildren Toby (Brad), Miranda, Zachary, Liam, Talia (Chad), Travis (Tanis) and Benjamin; and his great-grandsons Johnathan, Edward and TJ. Also left to mourn his passing are his sister Beverly Miller (John) and brother Geramy Harper (Lynn) along with his large extended family and many friends.
Born in Campbell River, John grew up in Ladner. During that time his many talents became obvious. He possessed innate skills as a woodworker and mechanic, no doubt a legacy from his father. There wasn’t much he could not repair. When he assembled his first motorcycle from miscellaneous boxes and fired it up in his bedroom, his shocked parents knew a lifelong passion had been born.
John moved to Kamloops in the early 1960’s where he and his father framed houses for a living. John went on to work as a construction carpenter. He was a whiz at putting things together, and fixing things that were broken. It soon became apparent he also had a gift for bringing people together, and solving their collective problems. He proved to be a natural leader and an engaging public speaker, prompting him to assume more prominent roles within the carpenter’s union. He became the business agent in Kamloops and the surrounding area. Ultimately, he rose to become President of the Provincial Council of Carpenters, a job he truly enjoyed.
Throughout his career he never forgot his roots and the people he was elected to represent. His commitment to improving working conditions and benefits for all construction workers never waivered.
In 1993 John was appointed to the University College of the Cariboo Board of Governors. He soon became Chair of the Board and was instrumental in its transition and expansion as it became Thompson Rivers University.
In 1970 John purchased acreage and a small house in Pritchard. Outbuildings were quickly constructed and the old house was raised and renovated to become a three story home. He and Denise worked hard to improve the property, planting hundreds of trees, creating flower beds and establishing an enormous vegetable garden. Horses, cows and chickens were added to the mix. Soon, the property was as warm and inviting as its owners. As might be expected, it became a hub for decades of celebrations, dinners, reunions, holidays and wiener roasts around the fire. With little notice, John and Denise would welcome members of their extended and growing family, and their vast circle of friends, for practically any event. It was a sanctuary that John literally built with his own hands and he thought he would live there forever.
In 2019, poor health forced the sale of the family home and a move to Vernon, close to his daughter Kate and her family. While understandably sad to leave Pritchard, John was very happy with their new home in Desert Cove. The reduced workload allowed him more time to relax, and to spend with his cherished family. Nothing brought him greater joy.
His declining health and an erupting pandemic eventually prevented him from taking part in many activities. These were not especially good years for anything but it was a terrible time to be fighting cancer. Still, his family remained close, and along with neighbours and friends, gave him as much company and comfort as Covid protocols would allow. He managed to get together with his old motorcycle riding buddies from time to time to share coffee and stories. He was able to spend his final days at home, at peace and free from pain.
The family would like to thank Dr. Peter Loland, the doctors and nurses at the Vernon and Kelowna cancer clinics, and the team from Vernon Palliative Care for making that possible.
John could build or fix almost anything in his world. It doesn’t seem fair that his world could not fix him. It is hard not to feel like we let him down. But we admired his skills and abilities, respected his opinion, enjoyed his company, and we loved him. In the end, with our human limitations, that’s all that most of us can do. It is enough, and we hope no one feels they could have, or should have, done more.
Also, Denise tolerated a motorcycle passion that bordered on fanaticism, and nearly got him killed more than once, so she gets bonus points.
John brings us together, once again, not only in our sorrow and grief, but also in the memories and example of a life well lived. We look forward to celebrating that life at a future date, and will notify friends and family when a more formal event can be planned.
In the meantime, please feel free to remember John and say goodbye in whatever way feels appropriate. Roast a wiener in his honour. Rebuild a carburetor. Hug a grandchild. We think he would appreciate any of those gestures. He had absolutely zero pretensions.
If you wish to do more to honour his memory, please consider a donation to cancer research.
We realize that John was in his happy place when he was aboard his bike, roaring down a trail somewhere in the Thompson/Okanagan. That image seems like a fitting way to picture his final journey, and to wish him farewell. Goodbye John. It was an awesome ride.
You are invited to leave a personal message of condolence at the family’s online obituary @ www.MyAlternatives.ca
Arrangements entrusted to Alternatives Funeral & Cremation Services
Vernon 250-558-0866 & Armstrong 250-546-7237
Alternatives Funeral & Cremation ServicesObituary
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