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A Life Lived: Gene Harper spent his retirement driving a school bus

Being a school bus driver was not just a job for Gene Harper. It was an adventure. Gene had drove a school bus in the Happy Valley area for 15 years. It was his second job, as he retired years earlier from the Elizabethton Electric System.
Gene’s daughter, Angie, said he enjoyed being around the kids, and he took his job seriously. As a school bus driver, Gene was sometimes the first smiling adult a child saw in the morning and the last before he got home from school. “He loved those kids,” Angie shared.
Gene, 78, died March 17.
Gene was a “people” person and enjoyed his family. But, working was his thing. He enjoyed working and being outdoors. “When he worked at the Electric System and was sent out to cut someone’s power off because of an unpaid bill, he was known to loan the person the money to pay the bill. Sometimes he got paid back, sometimes he didn’t. He hated to have to cut off someone’s electrical power,” said Angie.
Gene, who lived in the Coal Chute Community, was known for helping his neighbors. He often would plow their gardens and get it ready for planting, and in the fall would return to clear it and till it for the winter months.
In addition to gardening, Gene enjoyed cutting hay and putting it up. “He just enjoyed being outdoors,” said Angie.
When he wasn’t working or helping a neighbor, Gene enjoyed watching his grandson, Josh Taylor, play golf. He enjoyed going to his golf matches as well as to Josh’s baseball games. Josh will graduate in May with a Master’s degree. Sadly, Gene won’t be there, but just a hunch, he will be looking down from Heaven with a smile on his face when Josh receives that Master’s degree.
When the weather was bad and Gene had to stay indoors, he enjoyed watching westerns on TV.
Angie said her father enjoyed family gatherings, especially cookouts. “He enjoyed all foods — from hotdogs to steaks,” she said.
Gene had lost two sisters within the past two months — Mary Miller and Alta Harper. “Alta was in the nursing home for five years before her death, and he went everyday to see her until the nursing home was locked down last March due to COVID,” said Angie.
Gene spent his last days at Hillview Rehabilitation Center. “He had been in and out since November, until he passed,” said Angie.
Gene attended Charity Hill Free Will Baptist Church.
“He loved his family and his neighbors. He was there for them,” said Angie. Gene is survived by his wife, Janice, three step-children, a grandson and granddaughter, and two great-grandchildren.
In addition to his work, Gene was a member of the Shriners and was a member of the Jericho Shriners Band.
When Gene died, his fellow school bus drivers paid tribute to him by parking their buses along the funeral procession route and standing outside their bus in salute to a fellow driver.
Gene Harper was a special person. He gave his all to whatever he did…and added some heart to it as well. For Gene Harper, driving a school bus was not only a job, but he cared for the students who rode his bus. He knew most of the kids by name, and could tell you a little something about them. One co-worker shared, “He was the ideal bus driver — humble, kind, tolerant, and he loved the kids.”