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Thomas John Harper

March 4, 1934 ~ March 28, 2021 (age 87)


Thomas John Harper


A kind and gentle soul departed this earth on Palm Sunday, March 28, 2021.


Thomas John Harper was born March 4, 1934 in Boston, MA to Helen Hayward Harper and Elmer Bruce Harper. Tom was blessed with four older sisters, Jean, Barbara, Betty and Sally and a younger brother, John (Jigger). His early years were spent in the Boston area. The family then moved to Cape Cod where Tom graduated from Harwich High School. Following family tradition, he was off to his beloved Dartmouth College (Class of 1956).


After receiving his BA followed by an MBA from Dartmouth’s Amos Tuck School of Business, Tom joined the Navy as an officer. He quickly realized that he had salt water in his veins, so chose this as his life’s career for the next 24 years. His earliest assignment was to an Ice Breaker, the USS Edisto. There were multiple trips to the Arctic and Antarctic to replenish supplies to the research stations.


Vietnam was very prominent during his career. Tom had three deployments there including a one-year tour in the Mekong Delta with the Riverine Forces where he earned a Bronze Star for meritorious service.


After Vietnam the highlight of his naval assignments was a five-year NATO tour in Rome and Naples, Italy, doing operations analysis. Over the course of his naval career, Tom rose in rank to Captain and became the Commanding Officer of the USS Orleck, a destroyer-his dream assignment.


Prior to the Orleck he was Executive Officer of the USS Sterrett, the first cruiser to shoot down a MIG with a Terrier Missile.


Tom was a highly decorated naval officer with multiple awards for valor, including the Legion of Merit and two Bronze Stars.


Upon the death of his father-in-law, Tom chose to retire to Burlington, NC, to operate the family hosiery mill (Elizabeth-Meade Hosiery) which he managed for nineteen years.



Tom had met his love, Sandra Elder Harper, on Labor Day 1961. They married on February 10, 1962. It was a short courtship but a long and happy marriage of 59 years. He enjoyed growing the beautiful zinnias in his garden and sailing his Blue Goose in the Beaufort, NC environs.


Tom is survived by his adoring wife, Sandra Elder Harper; sister, Jean Homes (Phil); brother, John (Sally); many devoted nieces and nephews who called him, “Uncle T”. He will be missed by them all. Tom was preceded in death by three sisters and a niece, Barbara Harper.


Anchors Aweigh, Captain.


A private memorial service will be held for the family.  Others are invited to join by livestream at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday 4/1/2021 at

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