EUREKA SPRINGS -- Laddie Joe Harp, a native of Eureka Springs, died at his Holiday Island home on Wednesday evening, Aug. 29 at the age of 80.
He was born on Dec. 20, 1926, the only child of Albert and Zoe Harp, owners of Harp's Old Time Grocery, Eureka Springs' oldest store. "He came from good people, with good roots," said Bank of Eureka Springs president John Cross.
Harp was the grandson of Claude Pike, a former Eureka Springs police chief and foreman of the first organized fire company in Eureka Springs. Harp began carrying on his family's tradition of service at the young age of 17. He served in the Navy, Army Special Forces, Air Force and Coast Guard and was a veteran of WWII and the Korean War. He was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Elks Lodge, American Veterans and the American Legion.
Harp also helped organize the Greater Ozarks Patriots Association, an organization which included not only veterans, but also Elks, Legionaires, Lions and members of other groups committed to public service. Later, he served as its president.
Harp was most proud, however, of his role as state bugler for Missouri's American Legion, playing Taps at veterans' funerals across the state, sometimes attending as many as five funerals in one day.
Harp seldom missed the Eureka Springs Folk Festival parade, riding at the lead, he was recognized by many when he bugled "Charge!"
"During the antique car parade, when you heard that distant bugle sounding 'Charge!,' you knew Laddie Joe would soon drive by in his 1975 white Corvette," said Shirley Harp, his wife of 19 years. Sometimes, people across town could hear him playing bugle on his East Mountain porch.
After his military service, Harp began playing the bugle as a professional musician in Springfield and Joplin, Mo. He continued to entertain at veterans' conventions throughout his life.
Always the lover of a thrill, Harp raced for NASCAR in Honolulu, Hawaii during the early 50s. He is included in NASCAR's Living Legends Museum in Daytona Beach, Fla. He raced motorcycles in Springfield until he was 50 years old.
"The whole family doted on Laddie Joe," recalled Cross, whose cousins Rena Brown and Helen Harper told him when Harp was a very little boy, he discovered if he left his bedroom door open and prayed real loud for something, someone in the house would hear and get it for him.
As older boys, Cross and Harp rode horses on the Harp farm. "Laddie Joe and I both loved horses," he said. "We loved to ride them, and we loved to train them."
As a young man, Harp did odd jobs for Cross' grandfather, U.S. Congressman Claude A. Fuller.
Shirley often thought recording her husband's stories would have been a good idea. "You should write some of this down," she told him.
Harp agreed, although he never committed his memories to paper. "I know things nobody in this town knows," he said.
Harp is survived by one son, Mark Harp, and wife Cindy; one grandson, Joey Harp; and one great grandson, Jason Harp, all of Springfield, Mo. He was preceded in death by his parents, grandparents and his maternal aunt.
Graveside services were held Saturday at the Eureka Springs Cemetery. When asked whether she wanted to put Harp's watch back on his wrist, Shirley opted not to. "It has an alarm. When it goes off, it makes the sound of a rooster crowing," she said, laughing through her grief. She thought it would be tacky if the rooster crowed during the memorial service.