Claude Eugene Harper, age 88 years, a resident of Vienna, Illinois, passed away Monday afternoon, May 20, 2013, at Southgate Health Care Center in Metropolis, Illinois.
Claude was born near Ozark, IL, on July 25, 1924, the son of Fred and Amy (Martin) Harper. He was a 1942 graduate of Vienna High School. Claude was united in marriage to Wilda Elizabeth Parker on March 17, 1943, and he entered active duty in the U.S. Army twelve days later.
Claude was trained as a radio operator and gunner and was assigned to be a radio operator on a B-17 crew in the 91st Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force stationed at Bassingbourn Airfield in England. He flew twenty-four bombing missions during the late summer and fall of 1944. In early December, his aircraft was shot down over Germany. Three of his fellow crew members were killed in the aircraft explosion, and he received a serious injury to his left arm. He was held as a prisoner of war for the last five months of the war in Europe.
After working at a variety of jobs during the ten years following the war, he became a partner with Howard Underwood as owners of the U&H Food Center on the Vienna town square from 1957 to 1970.
Claude then he served as Johnson County Treasurer and Collector from 1970 until he retired in 1992.
In later years he learned to fly and shared ownership of an airplane with a small group of friends; he trained and became certified as an emergency medical technician and worked with the ambulance service in Vienna; and he helped to operate the food pantry at the First Baptist Church.
For many years he served as a deacon (later deacon emeritus), Sunday school superintendent, Sunday school teacher and choir member at the First Baptist Church in Vienna.
Claude and Wilda are survived by their sons, Don and Chris Harper, and Bill and Cynthia Harper, their daughter, Patti Harper, their granddaughters, Anita and Liz, their grandsons, Jeremy, Abe and Ben, and great-grandchildren, Sloane, Bobby, Alanna, Natalie, Alex, Zoe, Jacob, Reilly and Connor; a brother – Verne Harper of Washington and a sister – Rosalie Steinhour of Springfield, IL.
Wilda passed away in 1977, after thirty-four years of marriage. In 1978, Claude married Velma Herren. She survives. Claude is also survived by Velma’s children – Sherry and Jeff Moore, Mike and Agnes Herren, Randy and Rita Herren, and Danny and Bev Herren along with their families.
Funeral services will be held Thursday, May 23, 2013, at 1 p.m. at Bailey Funeral Home in Vienna. Dr. Ed Hollis will officiate. Burial will be in Reynoldsburg Cemetery near Tunnel Hill. Military graveside rites will be accorded by the Beggs-Gurley VFW Post 5222 of Vienna and the Illinois National Guard Burial Honors Detail.
Visitation will be from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Thursday at Bailey Funeral Home in Vienna.
Memorials may be made to the First Baptist Church, PO Box 727, Vienna, Illinois 62995.
To share a memory of Claude or to leave an online message of condolence for his family, please visit www.baileyfh.com