Earl Wayne Harper of Brenham, Texas, died peacefully on Saturday afternoon, March 20, 2021, at his home, the Brenham State Supported Living Center, surrounded by his devoted family and caregiver friends. He was born on September 9, 1953, in Port Arthur, Texas, and was the third of four children born to H.A. Harper and Dora (Harper) Borque.
Earl was preceded in death by his parents and brother, Jerry Harper. He is survived by his family who cherish him: his sister, Glenda Landry of Austin, TX; his sister and brother-in-law, Betty and David LeMaster, also of Austin; his nephews, Chris Amburg of Houston, TX, and Michael Amburg and his wife, Michaela, of Blue Springs, MO; and his nieces, Casey Ford of Nederland, TX, and Jana Grossman and her husband, Edward, of Port Arthur, TX. He is also survived by numerous great-nieces and nephews.
A person with Down’s Syndrome, Earl spent his early childhood with his family, but in 1962, to receive a necessary high level of care, he was enrolled at Mexia State School. Later, in 1975, he moved to BSSLC, then called Brenham State School, as one of its first residents, and by the end of his life, he had lived there longer than any other resident. Earl thrived during his long, remarkable life, and BSSLC and its extended networks largely made that possible. As a youth, he received an education in residence, and as an adult, he had opportunities for skills training and work on campus and in the community through corporations like Blue Bell Creameries and Sealy. Earl volunteered at numerous annual campus-wide events like the Spring Fling Parade, of which he appointed himself marshal. Earl also played as hard as he worked. He had a full social calendar and met everyone with his gregarious disposition. He lived in a bustling cottage and was engaged with a diverse cohort of roommates and staff members, his second family.
Earl was wise and a model of empathy and humor. He was a committed churchgoer: it gave him a reason to wear his favorite outfit, a crisp suit and tie. Earl had a strong Christian faith, worshipped with his whole heart, collected bibles, and loved singing hymns. He was largely nonverbal but knew the words to every song and would sing anywhere, especially with the radio on car trips to visit his family.
Earl was an outdoorsman; he basked in sunshine, developing his tan as he hiked around campus or lounged on his sister’s patio. He loved to swim. He enjoyed relaxing at his cottage, people-watching from a rocker on the porch. Earl relished holidays, especially Christmas, and was thrilled any time he got to pack a suitcase and take a trip. He liked hanging out with his brother-in-law and doing “man stuff” like shaving or running to the hardware store. He would not get into a car unless he could ride shotgun, but he merited the privilege. Earl was a fair and excellent supervisor of all things—his sister’s yardwork, his brother-in-law’s cookouts, or anywhere his vision was needed. To the chagrin of his nieces when they were children, he was also fond of rearranging their furniture, toys, and knick-knacks to suit his taste.
Earl was an avid collector of sunglasses and often had several pairs on his person. People found his hobby charming and contributed to it regularly. His collection multiplied and migrated so that today, there are probably pairs all over campus and possibly throughout the city. Sharp-dressed and outfitted in his best shades, Earl reigned as a humble but cool character, loved by all whom he met.
As his health declined in recent months, Earl received exemplary professional and personal care from the medical teams at Baylor Scott & White in Brenham and College Station and the staff of Hospice Brazos Valley. His family are entirely grateful for how his medical needs were met with compassion.
His family also sends their deepest gratitude to the staff and medical professionals at BSSLC who have cared so exceptionally for Earl over the decades. They send their love and thanks to his roommates, his caregivers, and to the wider community of Brenham donors, professionals, and citizens who have committed themselves, their time, and their resources to Earl and all the residents of BSSLC.
The Volunteer Services Council of BSSLC is the only non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to enriching the lives of residents by providing fiscal and human resources beyond the provision of the state. They bring art, nature, sports, and culture to the residents of BSSLC, and they link residents to services by providing access to furniture, people-movers, and special facilities.
In lieu of flowers, please donate to the VSC via their web site, brenhamvsc.com/donate-now.
Due to current public health risks associated with COVID-19, no public service will be held. His family will hold a private viewing, Earl will be cremated, and his remains will be interred at Fellowship Cemetery in Warren, TX. Arrangements have been entrusted to Memorial Oaks Chapel, 1306 West Main Street, Brenham, TX, 77833.