Orpha J. Harnish
1929 - 2021
Orpha J. (Graybill) Harnish

Orpha Harnish covered many miles during her earthly life that led to her heavenly home February 7, 2021. She has met her faithful Lord and joined once again with her dear Mother. She was born in March of 1929, the ninth of ten children of Henry and Lena Graybill; growing up in Lancaster County, PA. She had the benefit of rural farm life with associated family businesses. She attended a one-room school for her first four years; which she credits for her proficiency in spelling as she listened to the eighth graders. During her sophomore year of high school, she suffered the sudden loss of her Mother due to a car/truck collision: a tragedy which deeply affected the rest of her life.

Orpha and Henry W. Harnish were married during his second year of college. They enjoyed 38 years together; living in Goshen, IN, Des Moines IA, Tulsa and Enid, OK. Orpha worked as a medical secretary and medical records librarian while Henry went to medical school. Upon receiving his D.O. degree, they moved to Tulsa, OK, for internship. Tulsa appealed to them and they made their home there. They were the happy parents of one daughter, Orpha Jill. The family interest in sports revolved around Orpha's fencing – she was a member of the Oklahoma Team at the Pan American Games in the 60's; and Jill's springboard diving. They attended three Olympic Games – Mexico City, Toronto, and Los Angeles. Orpha was an enthusiastic supporter of the Olympic movement; seeing it as an ideal method toward world peace and friendship. Orpha was a life-long runner, which began as conditioning for fencing. She was the only lady in the Larry Aduddell Run, which became the Tulsa Run.

Orpha was a stay-at-home mother; believing that motherhood/parenthood was the highest calling. Being involved in Jill's school activities led to volunteering; which led her to leadership roles in the community. She became a board member and/or president of Glasshouse Gardeners, Tulsa Garden Club, Questers, PEO, Enid Symphony Association, Enid League of Women Voters, YWCA, National Association of Parliamentarians, Tulsa Opera and The Guild of Tulsa Opera, Opera Volunteers International, and president of local, state, and national Auxiliary to the American Osteopathic Association. Her ten-year effort to achieve equal classification of Osteopathic medicine with allopathic medicine as "science and medicine" by the American Library Association, and getting the Library of Congress to approve the change (1981), resulted in receipt of the Millennium Award in 2000. Her interests in art, music, sports, and her church were self-evident. She was a member and elder of First Presbyterian Churches of Enid and Tulsa.

Orpha moved back to Tulsa in the late 80's; and enjoyed continued learning and volunteering through First Presbyterian Church, fund-raising for many of her passions, and the fine arts Tulsa offers with many friends. The pandemic, superimposed on independence-robbing macular degeneration, prompted Orpha to move to Alaska and live with Jill and Tim. Although she continued to miss Oklahoma and socializing – she continued to learn and enjoy her iPad. She continued to enjoy fine meals, desserts, coffee chats, cherished phone calls, and an occasional outing. She maintained a daily walking and exercise routine until a few weeks prior to her death of natural causes.

Orpha is survived by: her daughter, Orpha Jill Lawrence (Mrs. Tim) of Anchorage, AK; sister, Eunice Enck (Mrs. Jesse) of Sanibel, FL; half sister, Marie Hoover (Mrs. Levi ) of Denver, PA., as well as many loved nieces and nephews. Her husband of 38 years, her sisters, Mary Schantz and Lois Dagen, and her brothers, Mervin, Paul, Arthur, Noah, Omar, and Jacob preceded her in death; as well as several beloved nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held in Tulsa in the future when gathering in person is possible.

Orpha's life was one of generosity both in actions and word, mentoring many people. She was a truly self-educated person who believed helping others was our calling from God. Memorials may be made to the endowment fund of The Guild of the Tulsa Opera, 1610 South Boulder Ave, Tulsa, OK 74119; The Enid Symphony Orchestra, 301 West Broadway, Enid, OK 73703; and/or the Music Ministry (Organ and Chancel Choir) of First Presbyterian Church of Tulsa, 709 South Boston Ave, Tulsa, OK 74119.
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Published by Tulsa World on Feb. 21, 2021.
No memorial events are currently scheduled.
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3 Entries
Today, I was saddened when I learned that Orpha had passed. She was a great and gracious lady and I enjoyed working with her in both Tulsa Opera and the Guild of Tulsa Opera. Sandy Stava
Sandy A. Stava
February 23, 2021
I was such a sweet lady and my friend. Prayers for Jill and her family.
Suzanne Rausch (Tulsa Opera Guild)
February 21, 2021
Jennifer & Calum
February 21, 2021