Saturday morning, Sept. 6, 2014, a beautiful gentle man took his final journey. Cecil Bryan Harper of Gloucester, went to heaven and no longer will suffer.
Cecil was born in Bicknell, Ind., Jan. 14, 1936, to Floyd and Grace Edith Moss Harper, both deceased, of Bicknell. Cecil, four and a half pounds at birth, was born at home.
After Cecil’s father died in a mine accident, Cecil and his mother moved to Lawrenceville, Ill., where Cecil graduated from Lawrenceville Township High School in 1954. Cecil joined the United States Marine Corps at age 18 and completed boot camp at Camp Pendleton, Cal.
During his Marine Corps career, Cecil met me, his wife Barbara Elizabeth Priest Harper, in December 1957. I too was a Marine, serving in the women’s branch of the Marine Corps. We have four children. Elizabeth Ione Harper Wirt (Mike) of Charles City, Va., David Wayne Harper (Karen) of Pittsburgh, Pa., Deanna Lynn Harper Kornhaus Kackley (Pete) of Gloucester, Va., and Christopher Lee Harper (Jenna) of Toano, Va. We have nine living grandchildren, Jennifer Wirt Bowles (Brandon), Michael Wirt Jr., Kristin Harper Bloberger (Aaron), Ashley Harper, Whitney Harper Gault (TJ), Cristy Kornhaus Williams (Jeff), Bryan Kornhaus, Grace Harper, Matthew Harper, and Dean Bryan Kornhaus (deceased). We also have four great-grandchildren, Megan, Ian, Blake, and Nadia.
Cecil retired from the Marine Corps in 1974 having served three tours in Vietnam, participated in the Cuban Missile Crisis aboard the USS Boxer and USS Francis Marion and served many tours with the Fleet Marines based at Camp Lejeune, N.C. He started as a Private, held his highest limited duty officer grade of Major, and retired as a Gunnery Sergeant. Cecil Harper is a wounded warrior with 100% combat related VA disability for service in Vietnam and his exposure to Agent Orange. This chemical effectively ravaged Cecil’s body giving him diabetes, heart failure, hearing loss, skin cancer, extreme and continuous joint pain and stage four non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma of which finally resulted in the total destruction of his heart and subsequent death. In an effort to preserve his life Cecil participated in the HeartWare LVAD trial at Duke University Medical Hospital, which we had hoped would extend his life. While the surgery was a success, he suffered three strokes and Cecil’s heart was not strong enough to battle the demons of Agent Orange.
Cecil Harper was a gentle giant towering six feet, three inches. After he retired from the Marine Corps, Cecil became an assistant principal at Benjamin Syms Junior High School in Hampton, Va., for seven years. Upon leaving Benjamin Syms Junior High School, Cecil went to work in the federal government. He held a Senior Analyst position at the Naval Station in Norfolk, at Fort Eustis, Va., and at the Forces Command in Atlanta, Ga., finally transferring to the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon, Arlington, Va., under General Colin Powell. Cecil retired from the federal government on April 1, 1991 and became a permanent resident in Gloucester.
Cecil was a magnificent husband of 56 years. He loved all of his children, grandchildren and great- grandchildren and often stated “I feel so blessed.” He never used profanity and rarely spoke above a whisper. He loved animals and they seemed to sense that, frequently showing their affection upon meeting him. His wise teachings and philosophies are ingrained in the minds and hearts of all those he met and befriended. His children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will pick up the torch of his teachings and will continue his journey. Cecil will never be forgotten … God made sure of that. Rest in peace, my sweetheart … down the road we will be together again … that’s God’s promise.
There will be a visitation from 5-6 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014, at W.J. Smith & Son Funeral Home. A funeral service celebrating Cecil’s life will be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in the chapel of W.J. Smith & Son Funeral Home, Newport News. Burial will follow in Peninsula Memorial Park, Newport News.
Arrangements by W.J. Smith & Son Funeral Home, Newport News.