Cover photo for Doris Smith Harper's Obituary
Doris Smith Harper Profile Photo
1936 Doris 2024

Doris Smith Harper

May 26, 1936 — February 6, 2024

Bellaire

Doris Smith Harper, age 87, passed away peacefully on February 6, 2024, in Houston, TX, surrounded by family and friends.   

Doris was born on May 26, 1936, in Fort Worth, TX to Wade Austin Smith and Jessie Maye Cooke Smith. She lived on Crestline Road until she left home for college.  Doris attended Arlington Heights High School, where she was 1954 class valedictorian. While not especially athletic, Doris enjoyed the outdoors and the Girl Scouts were a big part of her life, with regular troop meetings and happy summer months spent as a camper and counselor at Camp Timberlake. She shared many tales of sleeping in hammocks, pitching tents, evading skunks, learning to sail, and working through Red Cross swim levels in Eagle Mountain Lake. Doris also spent time fishing with her father, birding with her mother, and building friendships with a small group of friends that stayed in touch and supported one another until the very end.  They affectionately referred to themselves as “The Island Girls” because a remote island in the St Lawrence River was a favorite getaway.  

For college, Doris elected to attend the University of Arizona. She boarded a train in Fort Worth with a steamer trunk, and after a two-day trip, arrived in the Tucson, Arizona desert.  She earned a BS in Psychology, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and stepped into several leadership roles with her sorority, Delta Gamma, the Pan Hellenic group, and the general student body.  In her junior and senior years, she served as President of the Women’s Student body.  Doris made dear friends while in Tucson and developed an affinity for the desert Southwest that stayed with her for the remainder of her life. 

On December 22, 1958, Doris married Alfred Y. Harper, Jr. from Jackson, MS. They soon settled in Huntsville, AL where they brought two children into the world and lived for a number of happy years. Doris continued her involvement with the charities of Delta Gamma and the kids’ Randolph School. She sailed on Guntersville Lake with A.Y., took the kids to the pool every day in the summer, and made sure that they had plenty of time to play in the creek running behind the house.  A special passion was her own yard and garden. In those years, she was often seen planting and dividing bulbs of her preferred Tiger lilies, and making sure that all kids and dogs knew to stay out of her flower beds. 

In 1972, Doris and A.Y. moved to Manlius, NY.  This was another happy, fulfilling time. She continued gardening, took up cross country skiing, walked dogs in the snow, hiked with friends, kept tabs on the kids, and provided guidance to the Delta Gamma chapter at Syracuse University.  The connection to Syracuse University was not limited to her Delta Gamma support.  While in her 40’s, Doris decided to return for a graduate degree.  She completed her thesis and received a master’s degree in public administration from Syracuse’s Maxwell School in 1981.

Subsequently, Doris worked in senior facilities as an administrator and marketer, an extension of prior volunteer efforts. After a stop in Milwaukee and Fort Worth, Doris and A.Y. settled in Princeton, NJ. The Princeton Red Cross had an opening for a Volunteer Coordinator.  Soon, Doris was filling that role, as well as directing Red Cross emergency response for the entire state of New Jersey. Her lush yard and garden in Princeton remained a refuge, this time including a lawn pond complete with frogs and aquatic plants.

When retirement came, Doris and A.Y. returned to his home state of Mississippi. Long time family ties to Ocean Springs, MS led them to settle in the Gulf Hills area.  She enjoyed the beauty and the good food of the Gulf Coast, planted many interesting things in her yard, hosted family gatherings that kept everyone together, enrolled her grand kids in sailing lessons at the local yacht club, and appreciated her neighbors and friends immensely. The Gulf Hills Garden Club and “As You Like It” were wonderful groups of like-minded souls. True to form, Doris served as an organizer, and most years was an officer in one, or both, groups. When her physical capabilities began to decline, Doris was profoundly moved by the kindness and generosity of her Gulf Hills friends, neighbors, helpers, and caregivers.

Doris lived out her last 4 years in Houston, TX, near children and grandchildren.  She was a resident at the Gardens of Bellaire where she made yet another set of dear friends and was with family constantly.  Gardening remained important, and she maintained a rather interesting planter box on the patio of her residence and a collection of indoor plants that were enjoyed by many.  She woke up every morning to the sun streaming into her east facing window and frequently commented on her happy battles with the sunbeam.  Doris also became a dyed-in-the-wool Houston Astros fan, planning meals and commitments around the Astros’ schedule, and always wanting to pick up the phone and tell Dusty (the manager) what to do.  Spring training through to the World Series was a wonderful time of year. 

The family extends special thanks and gratitude to the amazing, wonderful caregivers at the Gardens of Bellaire who provided so much love, support, laughter, tears, and joy!

Doris is preceded in death by her father, Wade Austin Smith; her mother, Jessie Maye Cooke Smith; and her husband, A.Y. Harper, Jr.

Survivors include her daughter, Lynn Harper (Tamara); her son, Alfred Y. Harper, III (Guadalupe); her two grandchildren, Isabella Harper and Alfie Harper; and her dear cousin, Cholly Cooke (Becky).

Memorial donations can be made to the American Red Cross or to the Friends of the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge.

A funeral service will be held at 2pm on Monday, February 19, 2024 at Bradford-O’Keefe Funeral Home, Ocean Springs, MS. Friends may visit one hour prior. Burial will follow at Crestlawn Memorial Park. 

Bradford-O’Keefe Funeral Homes is honored to serve the family of Doris Smith Harper.  

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Doris Smith Harper, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Visitation

Monday, February 19, 2024

1:00 - 2:00 pm (Central time)

Bradford-O'Keefe Funeral Home - Ocean Springs

911 Porter Avenue, Ocean Springs, MS 39564

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Funeral Service

Monday, February 19, 2024

2:00 - 3:00 pm (Central time)

Bradford-O'Keefe Funeral Home - Ocean Springs

911 Porter Avenue, Ocean Springs, MS 39564

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Burial

Monday, February 19, 2024

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

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