George Lacy Harper, was born in Tucson, Ariz., in 1926, and passed away peacefully Tuesday, April 8, 2014, with his family at his bedside at French Hospital in San Luis Obispo. He was the youngest son in a family of true pioneers of the Southwest. He attended schools in Tucson and served in the U.S. Navy during the last year of World War II. After graduation from the University of Arizona, George proceeded to Harvard Medical School, where he was awarded the Aesculapius Award for Excellence. Following an internship In San Francisco, he returned to Harvard School of Public Health for his master's degree. Marrying in 1956, Dr. Harper came to San Luis Obispo in 1960 as Public Health Officer for San Luis Obispo County, where he served for eight years. Notable for a visionary passion for preventive medicine and public health, he was one of the fathers of the Economic Opportunity Commission for San Luis Obispo County. In 2005, he was recognized for the creation of Operation Head Start in conjunction with the County Office of Education. Dr. Harper's leadership in advancing preventive health care was recognized by the World Health Organization, which sent him to study health care systems in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. He exercised his passion for the great outdoors in backpacking and advocacy for the natural environment, which he shared with his children, along with music, baseball, practical jokes and a fondness for sweets. George was a beloved son, brother, father, grand father and friend. When thanked for helping a family member, he always replied, "It's the best thing I do." George is survived by his children, Jennifer Harper Stevens, Julie Rose Harper, Nancy Jane Nolan and R. Dan Harper; daughter-in-law, Shawn Hitchcock Harper; grandchildren Megan and Chelsea Stevens, Elle Nolan and Nicolas, Lucas and William Harper; and the mother of his children, Ellen Harper Luschei. A private service to celebrate his life will be held in Arizona. For those who wish to honor his memory, a donation may be sent to the Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club, P.O. Box 15755, San Luis Obispo, CA 93406; or San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace, P.O. Box 3608, San Luis Obispo, CA 93403.
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Published in San Luis Obispo Tribune on Apr. 19, 2014