Leslie T. “Tom” Harper of Hermiston, Oregon was born on August 31, 1922, in Emporia, Kansas, to parents, Leslie Hagar Harper and Barbara Lorraine Burns Harper. He died on June 11, 2019, in Hermiston, Oregon, at the age of 96.
Tom grew up and attended school in Emporia, Kansas. When he was 17 years of age the family moved to Hutchinson, Kansas, where he graduated from High School. After High School he entered Hutchinson Junior College. He attended there until the start of World War II. Prior to that he was a Civil Engineer with the Kansas Highway Division and also a registered land surveyor in the State of Kansas. At the onset of WWII every male at the Junior College enlisted in the service as did Tom. However, he had a physical defect that prevented him from enlisting in any of the branches of service. In 1942 he was drafted by the Army and served in the Pacific Campaign as a forward observer for the 96th Infantry’s artillery division. During his time of service he participated in the invasion of Layte in the Philllipine Islands and also the invasion of Okinawa which was held by Japan. He was honorably discharged from the Army in 1946. He went back to Kansas and attended the University of Kansas in Manhattan Kansas and graduated as an Industrial Physicist in 1950. He went home to Hutchinson and started working for the City of Hutchinson.
On January 7, 1952 he married Betty Jeane Glover in Hutchinson Kansas, the couple honeymooned in Old Mexico. Tom and Betty had two children, a daughter Nancy Gail and a son Michael Thomas.
In the spring of 1961 Tom and Betty moved their family to Hermiston, Oregon, to build a city. Tom became Hermiston’s first City Manager. He served in that capacity for over 25 years. At the time of his retirement in 1987 at the age of 64, he was the only City Manager in the State of Oregon to serve one city for a period longer than 25 years.
During Tom’s tenure as City Manager the city built a library, public works building, wastewater treatment plant, opened a new city hall and built the public safety building that houses the police and fire departments. Many miles of roads were paved, the city purchased the land where the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center and new fairgrounds stand today, created the Hermiston Cemetery District and put together a plan for the Hermiston Municipal Airport in which the terminal building was named in his honor. Tom was an original member of the Hermiston Development Corporation, the first non-profit development corporation in the State of Oregon. This group was instrumental in recruiting some of the city’s largest employers, Lamb Weston, Hermiston Food and the Wal-Mart Distribution Center.
A plaque and picture hangs in city hall to honor Tom for his service and dedication to the City of Hermiston and its citizens.
Tom was a member of the Elks, Eagles, and Moose Lodges, the VFW and the Rotary Club.
During retirement Tom enjoyed outdoor sports, hunting, fishing, and golfing. He especially enjoyed nearly 40 years of trips to Hawaii with Betty and many of their friends and family.
Tom was preceded in death by his parents, wife Betty, a beloved nephew Thomas R. Strand and son in law H. Tim Novak. He is survived by his sister Barbara E. Owens age 99 of Springfield, Mo., daughter Nancy G. Novak (Clint Fordice) of Hermiston Or., son Michael T. Harper (Jake) of Hermiston Or., a niece Mauna Loa Strand of Springfield, Mo., three grandsons, Tony Horn (Jackie) of Kennewick, Wa., Brian Horn (Christine) of Blackstone Ma.,and Nathan Harper of Hermiston, Or., six great grandchildren and two great great grandchildren.
A memorial celebration of life service will be held Saturday, June 29, 2019 at 11:00 a.m. at Burns Mortuary of Hermiston. A reception and gathering will be at the Hermiston Elks Lodge following the service.
Please share memories of Tom with his family at burnsmortuaryhermiston.com. Burns Mortuary of Hermiston Oregon is in care of arrangements.
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