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Friday, February 10, 2023
Starts at 3:00pm (Central time)
Ernest Haven Harper, Jr., 71, passed away peacefully at home on February 3rd. Born in Atlanta, Georgia to Mary Louise Suddreth Harper and Ernest Haven Harper, Sr., Ernie grew up in the Little Rock area. He graduated from Catholic High School. He then went on to earn his Bachelor’s degree from Hendrix College and his Juris Doctorate from Southern Methodist University.
Ernie pursued Laura Menz during their college years, and they married in 1974. They enjoyed playing tennis, taking Sunday drives, spending quiet evenings in their backyard, and traveling together. He was devoted to her and in constant awe of her faith, optimism, and gentle spirit.
Ernie began practicing law in 1977 with Wallace, Hilburn, Clayton, Wilson & Hankins, Ltd. and became a partner with the firm in 1983. For many years he also served as a managing partner with the law firm, most recently rebranded as Hilburn Harper, Ltd. During Ernie’s forty-five years of legal practice in a wide array of commercial matters, he was recognized multiples times by various publications as one of the top-rated real estate attorneys in Arkansas. Part of his success as an attorney was due not only to his unceasing work ethic and commitment to clients but also to his undeniable way with words.
In his youth, Ernie’s family nicknamed him “Bear” in part for his proclivity to hibernate away from others and read books. In his adult life, this nickname fit the fierce love and protection he demonstrated for his wife, children, and four siblings. While his protectiveness was often to his children’s frustration at their inability to participate in sleep overs or team travel that involved “unsafe” vans (requiring -- to their chagrin -- riding behind the team van in the family station wagon), they now cherish the love from which this vigilance stemmed. He was not only a presence at his children’s important games, but equally traded in lunch breaks to attend mundane practices to watch his children play -- in one of his dapper suits despite 100-degree weather.
His over-protectiveness was exceeded only by his generosity. He went to great lengths to support his immediate and extended family as well as friends however he could, from writing a pointed ‘Ernie Harper letter’ on their behalf to mentoring new associates in the firm to providing a great deal of care for his father as Dr. Harper’s dementia progressed. In addition, he always shared his love of travel with the entire family in tow, and no one had a bigger heart for animals. He was particularly fond of his golden retrievers and his most recently adopted Paws in Prison dog.
Ernie loved to laugh and share laughter with others. He could make a room roar with laughter at a story he narrated. He also had a penchant for recounting favorite comedic movie scenes until he himself could scarcely breathe from laughing.
He was a music afficionado. Ernie had a particular devotion to the Allman Brothers, Brian Wilson, and the Beatles but also an eclectic respect for Elvis, Guns & Roses, the Everly Brothers, and Jason Isbell, to name a few. He frequently ensured his wife and adult children stood beside him to watch musical performances on YouTube while he provided commentary. His children, siblings, and in-laws also received emails with similar YouTube links. These emails included his analysis and notes of appreciation of the musical performances peppered with related historical references and trivia. He enjoyed live music a great deal including seeing Elvis at Barton Coliseum in 1972 – where he claims to have converted Laura to an Elvis fan -- and many fantastic shows at Ryman Auditorium with his family.
Ernie held everyone to high standards – himself most of all. He admitted to his faults, though did not give himself credit for his many attributes. He made fun of his aversion to and impatience with illness, but no one could have fought harder through his illness during these last few months. While he was taken from us too soon, his family takes comfort in knowing he no longer has to fight and will have a joyful reunion with his parents, who preceded him in death.
Ernie is survived by his beloved wife of 48 years, Laura, their children, Christin Harper (Alex Vernon), Matthew Harper (Noelle), Megan Baker (Matt), and Caroline Harper; grandchildren, Quinn Harper and Felix and Eloise Baker, who affectionately call him “Grumpa;” Quinn’s sister, Anna Cay Vernon; siblings David Harper (Carol), Craig Harper (Karyn), Anna Harper Parks, and Angie Carmichael (David), and many nieces and nephews.
The family would like to thank the doctors, nurses, and other caregivers who provided care for Ernie over these last few months.
Ernie’s memorial service will be held at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Little Rock on February 10 at 3:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital or Paws in Prison.
Arrangements by Smith North Little Rock Funeral Home, 1921 Main St, North Little Rock, AR 72114, 501-758-1170.--