NORMAN — Irene Elizabeth Harper, age 96, of Purcell, passed away Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013, at Westbrook Gardens Assisted Living Center in Purcell. Irene was born March 9, 1916, in Zion, Ark., near Little Rock. She was the sixth child of nine children born to William Edgar Howard and Alice Emma (Fudge) Howard.
Services will be 1 p.m. Thursday at Wilson-Little Funeral Home chapel in Purcell. Burial will follow at the Hillside Cemetery.
The year she was born, her family loaded everything they had onto a train, including Dad’s team of mules, and moved to a small farm south of Purcell near the Stealey community. There, she learned how to work hard as a young girl doing farm work. She first attended the Stealey School and later attended Wayne Schools.
On Sept. 12, 1935, Irene married the love of her life, Robert Luther Harper. They lived a short while in the Purcell area before moving to California in 1939 to find work. Irene worked several years as a Rosie the Riveter, working for the Douglas Aircraft Co. In 1943, they moved back to Oklahoma and to the area they called home. Irene worked hard as homemaker, wife and mother. While raising her seven children, she also worked outside the home for various businesses in the Purcell area. For many years, she worked as a cook for Broadlawn Nursing Home, later the Evans Nursing Home, and for the Ballard’s Dairy King. She also worked many years as a custodian for the First American Bank and at the Purcell Hospital.
Irene was a dedicated Christian woman. She was a charter member of the Sunray Baptist Church in Purcell and remained a member there for many years. She later moved her membership to the Purcell First Baptist Church, where many of her friends attend. For the past year, Irene has enjoyed living at the Westbrook Gardens Assisted Living Center in Purcell.
Throughout her life, she had always maintained and raised a garden. She was good at canning and was a fabulous cook. Besides going to church, she always liked to spend time with her family and have family get-togethers.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Will and Alice Howard; husband, Rob Harper in 1982; two sons, Kenneth Wayne and Richard Lee Harper; one brother, Lester Howard; and seven sisters, Stella Bell, Letha Minnix, Sarah Lee Underwood, Ferbia Herell, Hattie McClure, Fern Pendley and Jewell Johnson.
She is survived by five children, Carolyn Harper of Dallas, Howard Gale Harper of Purcell, Darlene Meskimen and husband Bob of Purcell, Robert D. Harper and wife Vera of Placentia, Calif., and Sheila Matthews and husband Dan of Norman; two daughters-in-law, Barbara Harper of Oklahoma City and Johnnie Harper of Norman; 2 sisters-in-law, Ruby Harper of Purcell and Shirley Harper of Chula Vista, Calif.; 15 grandchildren; 25 great-grandchildren; two great-great-grandchildren; umerous nieces, nephews and other relatives and friends.
Memorials may be made to the First Baptist Church of Purcell building fund.
The family will have a visitation from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Wilson-Little Funeral Home in Purcell.
Send online condolences at wilsonlittle.com.
Norman Transcript, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013