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Charles Harper, longtime owner of Harper's Cycling and Fitness in Iowa, dies

Published June 7, 2021

MUSCATINE, Iowa (BRAIN) — Charles Harper, who owned Harper's Cycling and Fitness for the past 55 years and was a well-regarded Iowa cycling advocate, recently died following a stroke. He was 85.

Harper died May 24 at Clarissa C. Cook Hospice House, 16 days after suffering the stroke. A funeral mass was held May 28.

Before starting Harper's Cycling and Fitness, he worked for Alcoa for many years. In 1994, Harper and three friends cycled from San Diego to St. Augustine, Florida. Harper was a member of The Wheelmen — a nonprofit dedicated to remembering the heritage of American cycling and served as the group's Iowa captain — and of the Melon City Bike Club.

Dan Jennings, Midwest rep for Gear Representation, has known the Harper family for 18 years, with the friendship with Charlie beginning with a tour of the shop and ending "at the back-room refrigerator and an offer of a cold beer."

"There are two things I learned from Charlie that I think are relevant in this day and age, and I have to share," Jennings said. "First, 'The Pause.' Whenever Charlie and I would talk, I quickly noticed that after I said something to him, he would pause. He was taking in what I said, and letting it simmer a bit before responding. Then when he responded, it was always respectful, fair, and most of the time entertaining. That doesn't mean he agreed with me, or I agreed with him. We saw eye to eye on a lot of things, but not everything. As simple as this sounds, it inspired me. In its essence, The Pause keeps us from saying something we will regret, whether we are talking to a customer, a co-worker, family, or friends. So, please, take a pause."

Jennings said Harper's other life lesson was his "Pay it Forward" approach.

"We all do it from time to time. And if you don't, you should. Do a small fix on a bike and send them on their way with a smile. Help a child learn to ride without training wheels. Stop and help fix that jammed chain on the side of the trail, or simply share a tool. That's how Charlie lived. He didn't talk about it; he just did it. When someone needs help, they don't always ask for it. Charlie always offered. He didn't wait for you to ask."

Survivors include wife Jean Harper of Muscatine; children Deborah Blackburn and husband Sam of Preston, Minnesota; Greg Harper — Harper's Cycling and Fitness manager — and wife Karen of Muscatine; Teresa Harp and husband James of Polk City, Iowa; Patricia Henriksen and husband Eric of Muscatine; James Harper and wife Jonia of Muscatine; and Bill Harper and wife, Carrie of Muscatine; eight grandchildren; and siblings Elizabeth Casillas and husband Sergio of Davenport, Iowa; Mary Darting of St. Charles, Missouri; Joseph Harper and wife Rose of Muscatine; Barbara Bockwoldt and husband James of St. Charles, Missouri; Thomas Harper and wife Mary of Muscatine; and Dorothy Soppeland and husband Don of LeClaire, Iowa; and many nieces and nephews.

Charles Harper, center, wife Jean and son Greg.

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