Obituary of Joseph Harper

Joseph Eldon Harper, age 75, passed away on Tuesday, November 3, 2020 of kidney failure and complications of COVID. A native of Fort Scott, Kansas, Joseph spent the last few years of his life at Moore-Few Care Center in Nevada, Missouri.

He is survived by a spouse, Gertrude (Johnston) Harper, two children: Mary Jo & Richard Harper, two grandchildren: Xavier Huffman and Cobie Haynes, one great-grandchild: Mabel Haynes, and family David Shaffer, Carroll Findley, Edna Stein, Wade and Julie Pellett, Nicole Pellett, Elly Booth, Weston Pellett, Dakota Brown, Jacob Pellett, Michael Nighswonger, Thomas Nighswonger, Brian Nighswonger, and Arria Booth. He was preceded in death by his parents Charles (Charlie) Harper and Mary (Pellett) Harper, sisters: Karen Shaffer and Peggy Findley, and family Larry Stein, Leona and Lewis Dreyer, Bud Johnston, Toby Nighswonger, Robbie Stein, and Tori and Sheena Peirano.

Joe was born June 29, 1945 in Fort Scott, Kansas to Charlie and Mary Harper. He grew up in the country north of town, helping his family run the farmland with his sisters Karen and Peggy.

Until the 4th grade, Joe didn’t care much for reading, but after a kind teacher at Bunker Hill helped him, reading became a passion for him that he passed on to his children.

Joseph married a Blue Mound girl, Gertrude Johnston, February 10, 1967, before enlisting in the United States Air Force August 10, 1967. Joseph and Gertrude spent two and a half years in Japan during his service. During this time, he was an assistant coach for Gertrude’s softball team and they enjoyed getting lost at the World’s Fair in Osaka. He was discharged as an E-4 Sergeant in 1971 and they moved to Glendale, Arizona where they began teaching Wade and Nicole how to hunt (always remember the Glenn Miller 8-tracks) before having children.

After Mary Jo and Richard were born, they came home to Fort Scott where Joseph assisted his mother in running the store on Main Street: Master Printers. Through the store, he was also a traveling salesman once a week, known as the “Laughing Salesman.”

After retirement, he enjoyed driving a bus for USD 234 Fort Scott. The kids were good company and he loved traveling where he could enjoy the sights and then take a nap or read a book until the kids were ready to come home.

Joe was in DeMolay then a Mason of the Rising Sun Lodge and a Past Patron of the Order of Eastern Star, Chapter 13, Fort Scott.

After graduating from Fort Scott High School and after service, he attended Glendale Community College and Arizona State University.

Joseph loved hunting, fishing, camping, playing cards, and attending music performances of his kids.

Any who heard his laugh knew who it belonged to and where it was coming from. The laughter will ring through those who have been left behind, though his has been silenced.

Funeral services will be held at 11:00 A.M. Monday, November 9th at the Cheney Witt Chapel.

Masonic and Eastern Star services will also be held at the chapel.  A graveside service with military honors will be held at 1:30 P.M. Monday at the U. S. National Cemetery in Ft. Scott.

Memorials are suggested to the PSU Foundation with emphasis on the Music Department and may be left in care of the Cheney Witt Chapel, 201 S. Main, P.O. Box 347, Ft. Scott, KS 66701.  Words of remembrance may be submitted to the online guestbook at

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