One of the secrets to life that people in Mississippi have perfected, is the gift to bring “home” with us wherever we go. If there was ever an individual who embodied this gift, it was Tommy Harper.
Tommy Ray Harper was born August 21, 1955 in Isola, MS the second son of Emory David and Annie Inez Lovett Harper. Preceded in death by his oldest brother, Emory David Harper, Jr., he is survived by his youngest brother, Paul Lovett Harper. Perhaps is it was some kind of internal middle child wiring that helped Tommy to develop the personality that drew all people to him. Wherever he was, he created “home.” Whether it was watching ESPN with his cowbell app at the nurses station, or organizing an impromptu storytelling session in the hallways of a hospital during a black out; this kind, gentle, and humble soul always created community. No matter where he went,
Tommy made friends; and friends became family, and family become forever. He was even known to buy birthday and baby gifts for the clinic staff, just because he knew they were celebrating. Although typically quiet by nature, when it came to hunting, baseball or his family, Tommy would come alive. An avid outdoorsman, his love of nature not only led him to the woods, but also to his yard and the animals, both domestic and wild, that filled it. Never concerned with the inconveniences it may have caused for the humans in his life, he always made sure the birds and squirrels (as well as his beloved lab, Drake, and his constant recliner companion, Meely) were pampered.
On July 18, 1975 Tommy married the love of his life, Donna Stanford Harper.
Even though he was known for his meticulous details when it came to organization and cleaning, over the next 44 years no one ever doubted that Donna called the shots. She brought not only love and joy and companionship to his life, but as his health declined, Donna became for him a constant source of safety and strength.
On August 27, 1980, the Harper line continued with the birth of his son Thomas Jayson Harper. It was in Jayson that Tommy got a second chance to relive and pass down his love of nature and hunting, but also his ethic of hard work and commitment, as well as his love for sports, especially baseball.
Tommy loved little league baseball. Perhaps it was because parents hadn’t quite yet lost their minds, which was important the many times he umpired. But most likely it was a love that was rooted in the purity of the game and the love and joy that those young boys, his own included, found in playing.
Tommy was known to always pass the game ball to the most unexpected of players, not always for skill, but for heart.
It is his same legacy of generosity and kindness that Tommy saw proudly inherited by his son, and shown in his marriage to Anna and the birth of their children Britton Thomas and Ruby Elizabeth. Tommy flourished as a father, but be gloried in the role of Poppa T.
But it was on July 8, 1986 that Tommy, lost his heart a second time with the birth of his daughter Kimberly. With her daddy’s fair hair and her momma’s spirit; Kim took control of everyone’s life with her first breath, and Tommy adored her. Someone once said the secret to fathering girls is to raise them in such a way that one day makes some young man miserable. While her husband Jason Kerr might object to the misery part, Tommy’s little indeed became the strong woman who not only knew and valued herself, but whose tender heart guides her still. With the birth of her son, John Harper Kerr, Poppa T became even more filled with happiness, if that was even possible.
A 40+ year veteran of MS Chemical, Tommy was known throughout the community for his big heart and his willingness to serve and help in any way possible. If there was ever a greater testament to this man it was these words by his wife, Donna, as she remembered him. “Tommy is at least healthy and whole and able to serve others as he would want.” Tommy’s greatest legacy to all who knew and loved him was truly his servant’s heart.
Tommy Ray Harper, aged 63, of Yazoo City passed away on August 9, 2019 at UMMC Medical Center. Tommy was preceded in death by his parents, Emory David and Annie Izez Lovett Harper of Isola and one brother, Emory David Harper, Jr. He is survived by his wife of 44 years, Donna Stanford Harper, one brother Paul Lovett Harper, and two children: Thomas Jayson Harper and wife Anna of Benton, MS and Kimberly Harper Kerr and husband Jason of Rolling Fork, MS. He was the proud “Poppa T” of Britton Thomas Harper, John Harper Kerr and Ruby Elizabeth Harper.
Services will be Tuesday, August 13 at First Baptist Church with visitation starting at 9:30 a.m. until the 11 a.m. service. Interment will follow in The Cemetery of Center Ridge Baptist Church with Dr. Clint Ritchie officiating.
In lieu of flowers the family request memorials to Blair E. Batson Children's Hospital.