The community and family of Oscar Harper were shocked and saddened by the news of his sudden death last week. He died unexpectedly of a massive heart attack at the age of 66. Harper was a longtime businessman, ardent supporter of the Lions Club, and a founding member of the Riverside Black History Month Committee.
He was well known for his community involvement and his work with Black Student Unions all over California.
Dell Roberts, who was related to Harper by marriage said, "my right hand is gone. He was on the road with me and the BSU kids up and down the state. You would be amazed at how many people he touched. I miss him so much," said Roberts.
Harper was the owner of Harpers Business Services on Brockton Ave. His granddaughter, Briana, found him sitting at his desk. His wife was concerned that she had not heard from him and could not reach him by phone. Briana went to his office. "She is devastated," said her mother and his daughter Staci.
Born Oscar Thomas Roberts Harper on February 18, 1937 in Centre, Texas, he was the oldest of six children. He grew up in Saginaw, Michigan.
He was an Eagle Scout and came to California on a Boy Scout sponsored trip. That was when he first met Dolores, the woman that he would spend the rest of his life with. However, she was a pre-teen and in Girl Scouts and had some growing to do herself. Later, he went into the Air Force and was stationed at March Air Force Base in Riverside when they met again. Their friendship grew into a lasting love.
Prior to joining the Air Force he was the Michigan State Golden Gloves bantamweight champion. He held a boxing license and boxed professionally for years. Harper was once considered Olympic material but because he was considered a professional boxer, he could not participate in the Olympics.
He left the armed forces and joined the Air Force Reserves and rose to the rank of captain before retiring.
In the 1960s Oscar and his wife Dolores (he affectionately called "Brandy") were active in the Civil Rights movement and in 1965 they moved back to Riverside where he became a Scout Master along with other activities. Most notable was his passion for the equestrian lifestyle. He led the equestrian group for the Annual Riverside Black History Parade and every year he participated in the Bill Pickett Rodeo. He made sure that youth in the community attended the rodeo and established an equestrian group, the Cavaliers, for youngsters 8-15 years old.
Harper taught Adult Education at Val Verde High School and at Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC), before becoming self-employed. He was recently elected as Chairman of the South Citrus Region.
Visitors are welcome on Thursday, April 24, 2003 from 1:00-7:00 p.m. at Tillmans Mortuary, 2874 Tenth Street in Riverside. There will also be a viewing on Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. at Faith Temple, 2355 Pennsylvania Ave. The Funeral will begin at 11:00 a.m. with burial immediately following at Riverside National Cemetery.
Left to cherish his memory is wife Dolores; children: Julian Morgan, Angelo Harper, Anthony Harper, Jacqueline Harper Jacobs, Debra Harper Winslow, Staci Harper; 11 grandchildren; and two great grandchildren. Siblings: George, Oliver, Clarence, Joyce Ella Roberts and Geraldine "FeFe" Green; brother-in-law Dell Roberts; and a host of other relatives and countless friends and associates.
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