Donald James Harper Sr., of Paola, Kansas, died Tuesday, July 30, 2019, after a long and hard fought battle with the only enemy he ever had, cancer.

A celebration of Don’s life will be 3 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 6, at Abdallah Shrine Temple, 5300 Metcalf, Overland Park, Kansas. A time for fellowship and telling lies will follow the service from 4-6 p.m. In honor of the way Don lived his life, please dress in something comfortable (and colorful). Bring a story (lies) to share if you feel so inclined. Inurnment will be at Leavenworth National Cemetery at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial donations to Kansas Palliative & Hospice Care or the Wheel of Fortune Ranch (Haysville, KS).

Don was born Sept. 16, 1934, to William H Harper Jr. and Loretta J. Harper (Ziegelmayer) in Kansas City, Kansas. On Dec. 30, 1980, he married the love of his life, Carol M Dahn. Don was our family hero; our own personal John Wayne. He was the tall oak in the forest of our lives, and we are all grateful to have lived under his protective shadow for more than 84 years.

While his smile and gentle spirit will not grace our lives anymore, our remembrance of him always will. After a long-lived family-driven and love-blessed life, our hero has taken a well deserved rest. We will all miss him dearly, but know that heaven is a much safer place now because of him. His spirit never diminished and he leaves with no regrets. He was a rare combination of a man who had a love of life and a firm understanding of what was important in life.

He joined the Army at 17 (after trying to get in at 16) during the Korean War. He served for three years. He was in the 7th Infantry unit and was on the second wave at the infamous Battle of Pork Chop Hill. Upon returning to the states, he continued what would be his life’s work in public service by joining the fire department. He served the community of northeast Johnson County for 35 years and retired in 1989 as assistant fire chief of Consolidated Fire District #2 of NE Johnson County. In 1995, Carol dragged this city boy to the country kicking and screaming, it didn’t take long for him to settle in and it became impossible to drag his country butt back into the city.

He is survived by his wife, Carol (Dahn), and trusty sidekicks, Cooper, EJ and Ollie; son, Donald “Sam” J Harper Jr (Julie) and granddaughter Nicholette Kruger (Bradley); two great-grandchildren, Lane and Brayden Kruger; sister, Donna Geivette (Earl); sister, Sharon Harper; sister, Dorothy Harper; sister, Gayle Weinand (George); sister, Judy Masters (Eldon); and many nieces, nephews, cousins and countless extended friends and fire department family spread across the country.

He was preceded in death by his parents, daughter, Patricia Harper, son, Kenneth Harper, daughter-in-law, Crystal Mallicoat-Harper, sister, Carol Harper and brother, William H Harper III.

The family would like to thank Drs. Griffin, Walton and Kaplan and their staff as well as all the many healthcare providers who have so graciously cared for him through the years.