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Thursday, February 1, 2018

Dr. Charles Richard Harper

Many, many Delta pilots will recall Dr. Harper.....
His obit is in today's AJC.
Joe Davis 
(Mgr. Flight Opns. Administration '70's & '80's)


HARPER, Dr. Charles Richard

A Life Well Lived. Charles
Richard Harper, whose long
career in aviation medicine
encompassed starting a jungle
survival school for the United
States Navy in the Philippines,
serving as United Airlines’
medical director and assessing pilots
for Federal Aviation
Administration medical flight
certification through his private
practice, died on January 19, 2018. He was 85. The cause was heart
failure. An innovative thinker and advocate of preventive
medicine and of a whole-person approach to health care,
Harper’s medical career focused on more than just an
examination of the physical symptoms of illness. As early as the 1960s
and 1970s, he authored papers and gave lectures on the need
for personality testing and psychiatric screening of pilots for
entities including the International Air Transport Association
and the International Congress of Aviation and Space
Medicine. A gifted story teller with a sly wit, Harper was known for
these entertaining lectures on aviation medicine. Pilots
frequently stopped Harper and his wife at the airport to say how
much they had enjoyed his presentations. As vice president of
medical services for United Airlines in Elk Grove, Ill., Harper
implemented a full-scale employee assistance program which
significantly reduced sick leave, and initiated psychiatric
screening of pilots and others in safety-sensitive positions.
Later, as the medical director for General Dynamics Land Services
Division in Troy, Mich., he developed preventive health and
employee assistance programs. While vice president of
medical services for Harvey Watt & Company in Atlanta, an airline
pilot disability claims adjustment firm, he greatly expanded
its rehabilitation program, yielding earlier medical
recertification for pilots. He founded his private practice,
Aeromedical, Inc., in Atlanta in 1994, serving as a FAA aviation
medical examiner for commercial pilots. In addition to
assisting pilots with their FAA medical certifications, he provided
counsel on diet, exercise, vitamins, and prevention. Harper
considered his work at Aeromedical one of his greatest
professional accomplishments, as over the course of his 24-year
private practice, he helped thousands of pilots maintain or
recover their aviation careers. Another achievement he valued
dates to the mid-1960s. As he recalled it, a rash of jetliner
crashes related to severe turbulence prompted Congress to
contemplate grounding all commercial jets until effective
safety procedures could be developed. In his role as medical
director for United Airlines in Denver, Harper worked with the
airlines’ head of operations, the FAA, and the Navy to
determine best practices for flying in or near severe turbulence.
This work was crucial in helping pilots avoid turbulence-
related accidents and in keeping commercial jetliners flying
without interruption. Always eager for adventure, Harper
began his medical career as a flight surgeon in the United States
Navy, after attending the United States Naval School of
Aviation Medicine in Pensacola, Fla., where he earned his pilot’s
license. In the late 1950s, he was posted to the Naval
installation at Cubi Point/Subic Bay in the Philippines. While there,
Harper started a school for the airbase to teach pilots, crew
and corpsmen how to survive in the dense tropical jungles. He
spent days with the indigenous tribes learning to find clean
water and edible plants, including - famously, among those he
taught - a tuber which was safe to eat if submerged in a
running stream for three days, but fatal to consume otherwise.
He also volunteered at a clinic run by Lutheran missionaries,
handling sick call for the Northern Filipino mountain people,
performing minor surgeries and even treating two cases of
leprosy. Through the mission, Harper also spent time with a
tribe of headhunters, and video footage from the trip shows
him dancing with them. He also traveled to Vietnam to help
search for survivors of a plane crash on the Ho Chi Minh trail,
in an area so remote his group had to build fires at night to
keep the tigers at bay. This experience served as an entry to
his later work for the Federal Aviation Administration in
Washington, where, as chief of its accident investigation
section, he traveled widely to examine the human and medical
causes of plane crashes. This foray into exotic locales took him
far from his early life in the American West and Midwest.
Harper was born at home during the height of the
Depression, in the sawmill town of Wright City, Okla. His father,
James, was a saw filer, sharpening the teeth of the huge
circular blades used to slice logs into lumber. His mother, Mary,
was a baker who also raised foster children. The couple had
five biological children, of which Harper was the youngest.
The family moved to Phoenix when Harper was about two
years old, and his mother died when he was six. After his
mother’s death, Harper’s childhood was peripatetic, as he
moved from Phoenix to the Toledo, Ohio, area to California,
living with various family members. One of his fondest
memories was sleeping on the roof of his sister’s garage on
sweltering Phoenix nights, looking up at the stars in the clear Arizona
sky and listening to World War II news and programs such as
the Green Lantern on a little radio with a wire antenna. He
also fondly recalled his time at a Boy Scout camp in the South
Mountains near Phoenix. After high school, Harper moved to
Ohio to work in his brother’s lockwasher factory and, in 1953,
to earn a bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry from the
University of Toledo. He received his medical degree from
Ohio State University College of Medicine in 1957. Shortly
before his senior year in medical school, his friend and
roommate Hyman Meyer Stockfish called him to the front porch of
one of the dormitories to meet a young nursing student,
Judith Neville. Along with another friend, the group went for
coffee at the Tom Thumb diner. That introduction led to a
date at the movies, and, eventually, to a wedding ceremony
at the First Congregational Church in Painesville, Ohio. Harper
and Neville were married in 1958, and together built a family.
Harper is survived by his wife of nearly 60 years, Judith; two
sons, Charles Harper and Mark Harper; daughters-in-law
Peggy Harper and Janet Conley; grandchildren Kelsey Harper
Wang and her husband, Jeffrey Wang; Allison Harper,
Christopher Harper, Sarah Harper, David Harper, and Lexie Harper. In
lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Wounded
WarriorProject:www.woundedwarriorproject.org/contact-us,
phone 1-877-832-6997 or Metro Atlanta Recovery Residence:
www.marrinc.org/donations/, phone 1-800-732-5430.
Condolences may be sent by visiting www.billheadfuneralhome.com.
A reception will be held Saturday, February 10, 2018 after the
service at St. Benedicts Catholic Church. The family will receive
friends Saturday from 12:00 p.m. until 1:00 p.m. with a
memorial service at 1:00 p.m. at Bill Head Funeral Homes &
Crematory Duluth Chapel (770)476-2535.

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