Charles W. Harper
March 6, 1936 - May 24, 2021

Charles W. Harper

Charles W. Harper
Mar 6, 1936 - May 24, 2021

Charles W. Harper

MUSCATINE, Iowa - Charles Harper, 85, of Muscatine, passed away on Monday, May 24, 2021, at Clarissa C. Cook Hospice House.

A funeral mass will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, May 28, 2021, at Ss. Mary Mathias Church. Burial will be in Greenwood Cemetery. Pallbearers will be Chase Harper, Paige Harper, Ian Henriksen, Annabelle Henriksen, Nicole Harper, Allison Harper, Erica Henderson, and John Harp.

Visitation will be from 3:00 until 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 27, 2021, at the Ralph J. Wittich-Riley-Freers Funeral Home. Memorials may be made to the Melon City Bike Club. Online condolences may be made to

Charles was born on March 6, 1936, in Muscatine, the son of Clarence and Margaret Evelyn King Harper. He married Jean Alice Kutcher on April 21, 1956, at St. Mary's Church in Muscatine.

Charles worked at Alcoa for many years. He then owned and operated Harper Cycling and Fitness for the last 55 years. In 1994, Charles and three friends cycled across the United States from San Diego, California, to St. Augustine, Florida. Charles was a member of The Wheelemen where he served as Iowa Captain, the Knights of Columbus, and the Melon City Bike Club. He served on Muscatine Park and Recreation, Hoover Nature Trail, and the Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Charles was involved and participated in RAGBRAI.

Those left to honor his memory are his wife, Jean Harper of Muscatine; his children, Deborah Blackburn and her husband, Sam, of Preston, Minnesota, Greg Harper and his wife, Karen, of Muscatine, Teresa Harp and her husband, James, of Polk City, Patricia Henriksen and her husband, Eric, of Muscatine, James Harper and his wife, Jonia, of Muscatine, and Bill Harper, and his wife, Carrie, of Muscatine; eight grandchildren; and his siblings, Elizabeth Casillas and her husband, Sergio, of Davenport, Mary Darting of St. Charles, Missouri, Joseph Harper and his wife, Rose, of Muscatine, Barbara Bockwoldt and her husband, James, of St. Charles, Missouri, Thomas Harper and his wife Mary, of Muscatine, and Dorothy Soppeland and her husband, Don, of LeClaire; and many nieces and nephews.

Charles is preceded in death by his parents; brother-in-law, Al Darting; and two nephews, Kyle DeCoster and Giles Josyln.


Dave Baker on May 27, 2021

I am so sorry to hear of Charlie's passing, but what a life and what a legacy! If anyone ever deserved a "well done!" it has to be him. I had the pleasure of working alongside Charlie's shop on ten RAGBRAIs when I worked for Bike Country. He was an absolute delight. I loved hearing about his wild adventures and I'll never forget listening to him and Bud from Coralville as they shot the breeze together, nor forget him and his giant highwheel bike (he let me ride it once but mercifully held on so I didn't fall over).

One of my favorite memories happened on RAGBRAI 2007 in Cedar Falls. We had a thing where we'd go to breakfast with Charlie, and the staff from another bike shop, CYP. Connie from CYP was having trouble getting through the roadblocks and Charlie gave her a piece of advice I'll never forget. "When they say 'you can't go in there,' you say 'thank you' and drive through anyway!" And that is exactly what she did...including once right past the cop! It's sound advice that I've used many times myself.

Thanks for the memories, Charlie; until we meet again,

Dave Baker, Ankeny, Iowa

Dave Baker on May 27, 2021

Dave Baker on May 27, 2021

Charlie Velasquez on May 27, 2021

Charlie helped us organize the Pedalwheelers, the predecessor of the Melon City Bike Club, in ‘76.

Dorothy Thulen on May 27, 2021

My condolences to the entire Harper family. Through my involvement on the GMCCI board, I enjoyed working with Bill and Greg and seeing Charlie and Jean at Chamber functions. Charlie was a tremendous asset to our community and will be sincerely missed. May you find comfort in fond memories of a well-lived life.

John Schwandke on May 26, 2021

God Bless You Charlie Harper! How lucky I was to have known you. What a guy... a true icon. I remember when he and Jean purchased the bicycle shop from Wack Zeug. It was located in the 100 block of Chestnut Street downtown in a building that originally had been my grandfather's auto mechanics shop. Charlie was an amazing guy, as many of the photos I see while scrolling down this tributes page attest. Charlie would do anything for a friend. Always encouraging and working behind the scenes without needing to receive recognition. I owned KWPC radio during the 1990's and Charlie was instrumental in helping us to provide live coverage from RAGBRAI as it crossed the state, sometimes doing call-in reports himself if the assigned reporters weren't able to get to a phone. But mostly I will remember Charlie for his smile, his laugh, riding his big-wheeler in the parade, and just his all-around readiness to help a friend. Condolences and warm hugs to Jean, Greg, and the entire Harper Clan. It's hard to replace a one-of-a-kind.

Charlie Velasquez on May 26, 2021

Arriving in Muscatine in '75 as a young couple with no savings, our first major purchases were my red LeTour and my wife's Silver Sprint. I remember thinking if all the merchants in Muscatine were this helpful and fair we were in a good place. He was a great ambassador for not just bicycling, but the entire city.
Charlie Velasquez

Sherry Hayes on May 26, 2021

Thanks for the memories Charlie! A life well loved and lived and shared with so many. Big hugs to the Harper family and the extended Muscatine, Iowa, and beyond community of friends whose lives were made more interesting by Charlie's presence in it! Love, the Sherry, Chris, and the girls.

sherry a hayes on May 26, 2021

Thanks for the memories Charlie! A life that touched so many people. Many hugs to the Harper family and the extended Harper family cycling community around Iowa and elsewhere. Chris and Sherry Hayes family

sherry a hayes on May 26, 2021

Thanks for the memories Charlie! A life that touched so many people. Many hugs to the Harper family and the extended Harper family cycling community around Iowa and elsewhere. Chris and Sherry Hayes family

sherry a hayes on May 26, 2021

Thanks for the memories Charlie! A life that touched so many people. Many hugs to the Harper family and the extended Harper family cycling community around Iowa and elsewhere. Chris and Sherry Hayes family

sherry a hayes on May 26, 2021

Thanks for the memories Charlie! A life that touched so many people. Many hugs to the Harper family and the extended Harper family cycling community around Iowa and elsewhere. Chris and Sherry Hayes family

Mark Auberg on May 26, 2021

Charlie was so interesting to talk with. I enjoyed his humor and stories. He was a well known figure in Muscatine and surrounding area. I am so glad to have known him. May the family and friends be comforted at this time.

Mike Merulla on May 26, 2021

To Jean and all of Charlie's family and friends, my deepest condolences. Every time I visited Harper's, I could always count on Charlie or Greg (or both) to be there. I'm sure there has never been a Schwinn model made that Charlie didn't know about. His love of high wheelers makes him a legend to me.
Along with his friend, Bud, they made quite the Dynamic Duo on RAGBRAI. I'm sure they are having the same effect now in Heaven, reunited again.
Rest in peace, Charlie - it's been a pleasure to know you and to call you my friend.
Mike Merulla

T. Gap Woo on May 26, 2021

May Charlie’s memory be a blessing. When you think of Charlie, may a smile come to your lips before a tear comes to your eyes. My condolences to Charlie’s friends and family.

~ T. Gap Woo, a fellow Ragbrai rider

Nadine Brockert on May 26, 2021

Our deepest sympathy to the Harper family. Charlie will be sorely missed. Charlie and Nadine Brockert

Leah on May 26, 2021

Elizabeth words can't express how sorry I am for Your loss. My thoughts and Prayers are with You and Your Family. May God put His loving arms around You All.

Amanda Kramer on May 25, 2021

Amanda Kramer on May 25, 2021

Amanda Kramer on May 25, 2021

José Patino on May 25, 2021

You have my deepest condolences, Charlie was Instrumental in my life by introducing me to cycling and all adventures I have had riding my bike.

John Harp on May 25, 2021

Dear Jean and the entire Harper Family,
I was so sorry to hear of Charlie's passing. I have fond memories of visiting for holidays in Muscatine. He and all of the Harpers have always been so gracious and kind to me. I hold a warm place in my heart for him.
-John Harp

Lonnie and Deb Phillips on May 25, 2021

Our condolences to the Harper family. May your wonderful memories help you through this difficult time. Lonnie and Deb Phillips

Coralie Voss on May 25, 2021

Condolences to Harper Family. Kevin Voss & Family

Kim the UPS man on May 25, 2021

As Charlie's "buddy", and UPS man for many years, I have countless memories of Charlie. And got to know his wonderful family, Jean and all the kids quite well. A few years ago, three of us UPS retirees, Pam, Lorna, and I went back to Muscatine to visit some our old haunts, and Harpers was a must stop. 1106 Grandview Ave, how could I ever forget? Charlie and Greg were so happy to see us, and welcomed us with open arms. Charlie even hopped on his giant tricycle. And I have a great memory of spending an evening with Charlie at Great River Days, I'm not sure if we went three steps beyond the beer tent. What a great evening! Charlie, you may be gone, but you'll never be forgotten.

Tyson Brown on May 25, 2021

Jean, my condolences to you and family. Charlie was such a great guy. He will be dearly missed.

Ed & Sue Lee on May 25, 2021

Ed and Sue Lee send our love and prayers to the Harper family. We are so sorry for your loss. Ed said that Charlie helped him finish his first century in Salisbury Md. - he would have never made it without him. Charlie was always ready to help or teach. It was an honor to know him. Our prayers are with you.

Linda & Tom Niedergeses on May 25, 2021

Oh, no - so sorry to hear of his passing. May all the great memories keep him close to you.

Dixon J. Novy on May 25, 2021

Harper Family, I'm sorry to hear of Charlie's passing. May the Lord's blessings comfort you during this time. Dixon

Dixon J. Novy on May 25, 2021

RAGBRAI PreRide Ending in Muscatine 2016

Rick Paulos on May 25, 2021

"How are you young man?" was Charlie's greeting at every encounter. It was always a special day for a fellow bike nut. Whether swaping bicycles for charities or just stoping by on the way from work. I first met Charlie during a visit to his bike shop in 1975 or so. I remember riding with him on Swine Trek over 40 years ago, back when the League of American Wheelmen promoted "September is Century Month" and all the regional bike clubs hosted a 100 mile bike ride on the weekends. I still have my Cannondale racing bike that I bought from Harpers in 1985 that has done 25 Ragbrais. Charlie was a regular volunteer at the annual Memorial Day weekend Melon City Bike Race despite it being held on the same day as the Indy 500. Owing a bike shop wasn't just a business. Charlie was rarity among bike shop owners as he was involved in nearly every aspect of bikes and cycling from supporting the Melon City bike club, hosting many bicycle roller races, taking the shop on the road as an official Ragbrai bike shop, entering many parades with the family members as they each grew taller and moved their way up the high wheeler collection and his membership in The Wheelmen (1870s high wheelers). One of Charlie's retirement hobbies was attending bicycle swap meets from Knoxville, Madison, Davenport, Memory Lane in Indiana, Ann Arbor, Michigan to Hershey, Pennsylvania and many others in between. Many fellow Schwinnuts got to meet him and sometimes Jean or Greg at those events. Charlie often had other aging bike nuts in attendance at the swap meets. Many others came to know Charlie through the Schwinn Bicycle forum on line. Charlie was an insider source of information on vintage Schwinns from the bicycle boom years. Each time Ragbrai finished in Muscatine there were none of the traffic jams that are the Ragbrai norm in every other town along the Mississippi River. I'm sure that was due to Charlie's help in planning. Charlie was an inspiration and advisor for my own ride across the USA. In 2016 I was at Harpers bike shop when Amy Oleynic and her father Randy rode up with Charlie, all on high wheelers. Amy and Randy were riding across the USA roughly following Thomas Stevens' route from 1884 and Charlie made an emergency parts delivery to them and rode along for a while. Many years ago Charlie completed a 100 mile in 1 day ride on his high wheeler, a feat few seats could endure.

Mary Costello on May 25, 2021

Hugs to the Harper Family. It is always sad to lose a community icon and someone who has shared this family and biking passion with so many. You are all in my thoughts and prays.

Nancy mckillip on May 25, 2021

What a great person I so sorry for your loss Nancy Mckillip prayers to the family

Charlie Harper on May 25, 2021

Charlie Harper for Mayor, Minion and Schwinut.

Charlie Harper on May 25, 2021

Charlie Harper for Mayor, Minion and Schwinut.

Charlie Harper on May 25, 2021

Charlie Harper for Mayor, Minion and Schwinut.

Marsha Hopkins Bartenhagen on May 25, 2021

Elizabeth; and the entire Harper Family….my deepest sympathy. Charlie is leaving a big hole in the bike community as well as your family. He was a local icon.

Sheila Chaudoin on May 25, 2021

My sympathies to the Harper family. May God bless you all.

Jeffro Olsen on May 25, 2021

Harper Family and Friends, Charlie was a staple in the hobby of bicycle collecting. He was a dear friend to many in the Hobby and one of those guys that made the events better. It was always fun to hear about his adventures and the history of something that had us collectors puzzled. He was funny and generous with his time and was always fair to deal with. Truely one of the greats! Pedal in peace my friend your job on earth is complete.

Julie & Tim Long on May 25, 2021

Harper family,
We were so sad to hear of Charlie’s passing. It was always such fun to see him riding his bike in the 4th of July parade every year. I know he will be missed by so many. Prayers for the family 🙏🏻✝️ May Charlie Rest In Peace !!

Steve & Lisa Phelps on May 25, 2021

CandleOur deepest condolences to the family. Our prayers are with you.

Dyann Roby on May 25, 2021

May Christ's promise of eternal life grant comfort to Jean and the family.
Our sympathy, Dyann & Dave Roby

Kathleen ( Barry) Marshall on May 25, 2021

Jean, Ron and I were so sorry to read of Charlie's passing. We pray that your memories will bring you comfort and that your faith will bring you peace. Knowing that you will sometime meet again is such a blessing. We will remember you in our thoughts and our prayers. ~Ron and Kathy(Barry) Marshall~

Jane Daufeldt on May 25, 2021

Dear Harper family, I was so very sad to read of Charlie’s passing! He was a wonderful ambassador for Muscatine. His knowledge of RAGBRAI and helping Muscatine to host the ending town was always appreciated. We enjoyed watching him in the 4th of July parades with his Highwheelers and enjoyed his participation in promoting family activities along the walking/ biking trails in Muscatine.
Rest In The. Peace of the Lord. You will be greatly missed by your family and friends.



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Ralph J. Wittich-Riley-Freers Funeral Home
1931 Houser Street
Muscatine, IA 52761
3:00 PM - 7:00 PM

Funeral Mass

St. Mathias Church
215 West Eighth Street
Muscatine, Iowa 52761
11:00 AM
Burial will take place in Greenwood Cemetery.

Charles W. Harper

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