October 07, 2006

RIP: Hap Harper

Carter B. Smith emailed over last night that Hap Harper passed away this past Wednesday (October 4).

Hap Harper and Don SherwoodHap, who parlayed being Don Sherwood's neighbor into a paying gig as the world's first airborne traffic reporter on the World's Greatest Radio Station, was 81. He retired from radio in 1991 after 34 years on the air in the air, during which time he estimated that he had "logged over two million miles over the Bay Area and never been out of sight of the San Carlos Airport."

Born Howard Harper in New Orleans, he grew up in Flint, Mich., obtaining his pilot's license while still a teenager, and attended Oberlin College in Ohio, earning tuition money by giving flying lessons. He was a Marine Corps lieutenant and pilot during World War II, then settled in the Bay Area after leaving the service. As a friend and neighbor of Sherwood, he'd fly the KSFO disc jockey to various weekend getaways, and eventually was persuaded to go on the air with weather reports from on high.

One day in 1957 while giving his weather observations, he spotted a traffic accident down below and mentioned it on the air, thus launching a new phase in his flying career as well as creating an entire cottage industry.

In addition to being one of Sherwood's longstanding comrades-in-arms, Hap also sold real estate in the Sierra foothills for four decades, ferrying prospective clients in his private plane. During his radio career, he also worked with Van Amburg at KFRC, Gene Nelson at KSFO/KYA-FM and Frank Dill and Mike Cleary at KNBR, in addition to occasionally filling in at KSFO in the studio during Sherwood's frequent absences.

He retired from broadcasting in 1991, moving fulltime to Amador County to operate his HH Realty enterprise.

"He was a remarkably cheerful, outgoing and positive man, an excellent flier and fun to work with," Carter B. told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Hap is survived by his wife, Jan, his daughter, Kellie, and his son, Jeffrey. No funeral service will be held in accordance with Hap's wishes, but I'd bet there'll be a memorial gathering for his friends at some point in the near future.

More Hap:

Sherwood and Harper's "Raid On Stockton" from Laurie Harper's "Don Sherwood: The Life and Times of the World's Greatest Disc Jockey."

You may leave a remembrance or condolence message for Hap Harper by clicking here.

(Photo: Hap Harper and Don Sherwood aboard Hap's plane, 1958.)

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

When Gene Nelson and Hap Harper both worked at KSFO/KYA in the early '80s, one of the sponsors for Harper's traffic reports was Hoot Judkins, the unfinished furniture store. One morning, Harper led into one of his traffic reports with a Judkins spot. He talked about whatever deals ol' Hoot had going on at the time, and then he finished up with the standard Hoot closing line.

"Walk on into any Bay Area Hoot Judkins furniture store and say, 'Hoot, hoot,'" said Harper.

"And then turn around and walk out of the place," interrupted Nelson.

Hap Harper laughed so hard, you half-expected his helicopter to fall out of the sky. To this day, it was the hardest I've ever heard someone not named Jackie Martling laugh on the air.

That was nearly 25 years ago, and I still laugh to myself whenever I drive by the Hoot Judkins store in Fremont on the corner of Blacow and Mowry. Maybe I'll go in there today and give 'em a hoot or two in honor of Hap.

October 09, 2006 12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am lucky enough to have 47 years of stories about my Dad, Hap Harper. One time I had stopped by to visit and while there took a box of cereal to munch on while driving to work the next morning. What I didn't know was that this box of cereal was from his air traffic sponser and was there for my dad to try before giving his commercial the next morning.
Being a fan as well as his daughter, the next morning I was listening for dad's report. That is when I heard the commercial, "I was supposted to do my commercial on how tasty "Frosty Wheats" are, but my daughter came over last night and took the box before I could try any! If you see her on the 101 south around Palo Alto in a white RX-7 eating, Please shake your finger at her for me." That was it, his commercial!
From that point on in the drive I had people honking and shaking their fingers at me all the way to work and then even at work people were coming up to me telling me to return dad's cereal!
Thank you for all your fond memories about Dad! They really help!
Dad loved his stories and is up there loving that we are sharing them with each other...keeping him alive in our hearts!
Thank you, Kellie Harper

October 11, 2006 6:32 PM  
Blogger Georob said...

I first heard Hap Harper on KNBR in the 70's. Until I read Laurie Harper's book about Sherwood, I never knew that he'd been with KSFO prior to the 1980's with Gene Nelson. I thought Warren Boggess had always been Sherwood's traffic guy(while being mayor of Concord to boot)

Does anyone know the timeline? When would he have left KSFO the first time? I've heard the KFRC aircheck with Van Amburg, so did Hap go to KNBR when KFRC switched to Top 40 maybe?

I also thought Laurie and Hap were Mr. and Mrs. Was this a prior marriage?

Nonetheless, he'll be missed.

October 12, 2006 2:37 PM  
Blogger Janet said...

I was a DJ at KSFO in the early 1980's and was leaving my hometown San Francisco to work in Seattle in 1984. Hap Harper graciously offered to fly me over my own city. We took off from the San Carlos airport and I saw the city I had lived in all my young life as I had never seen it before. Unbenownst to me Hap had pre-arranged with Carter B. Smith who was on-the-air that afternoon a prank they would pull on me. Just when Carter talked with me on-air on the 2 way and asked how my flight was going Hap took a dip in the plane and I wailed in surprise on-the-air. That was my last time on-air on KSFO - fun memory. Hap also flew me over the estate where "Dynasty" was being filmed at the time. What a nice man and so happy. I have now worked as a traffic reporter in Seattle on KIRO-FM for a year and a half and wish Hap was still with us so I could let him know. He was one of the best in Bay Area radio for decades!!

Janet Wilson - Seattle

September 08, 2009 5:19 PM  

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