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John Franklin Harper, 88

(June 14, 1932 - January 23, 2021)

—Founder of Rocky Hill's Pacific Southern Model Railroad

John Franklin Harper of Princeton, died on Saturday, January 23 at Penn Medicine – Princeton Medical Center. He was 88.


He was a founding member of the Pacific Southern Model Railroad in Rocky Hill and built from “scratch” his own H-O gauge model railroad at his home, which he operated for many years. He was president of the Nassau Club from 1996-1998 and treasurer thereafter until 2007. He also served on the boards of the Princeton Area Community Foundation and Delaware Raritan Greenway.

John was born June 14, 1932 in Newburgh, NY and attended Kent School in Kent, CT. He married Katherine Johnson in 1953 when he was a senior at Princeton University. After graduating in 1954, having served in ROTC, the Army sent him to Fort Sill, OK and then on to Fort Lewis, WA. John and Katherine had four children: John F., Jr., Jay Meredith, Carolyn Elizabeth, and Katherine Clark.


John’s two post-Army jobs were at Philadelphia National Bank and Gulf Oil. In 1960, John was hired by Princeton University to help with its $53 million dollar campaign and following the completion of that effort stayed on to work in the Princeton Development Office. In 1966 he resigned to join two colleagues to form a fund-raising and public relations firm in NYC. In 1972, John formed his own fund-raising firm, John F. Harper and Co., which focused on some of the finest independent schools and colleges along the East coast.

He served as ’54 class agent, 25th Princeton reunion class chairman and vice-president and president of the Class of 1954. John played the ukulele and was a member of the “Buster Lewis” all male joke club in the 1980s.

He was predeceased by Katherine Johnson Harper and Nancy Bailey Harper.

John and Margee were married in 1987 and worked together in John’s firm until 1992. Since then they have volunteered with local non-profit organizations. John is survived by his wife, four children, his sister, Priscilla, and her husband, Charles, and seven grandchildren.

We will all miss him terribly. We are most grateful to his caretakers for the past seven years, Louis Semexan, Steve Mathelier, Benedik Louis and John Hyppolyte.

There will be a graveside service, in the Harper family plot, in Woodlawn Cemetery, New Windsor, NY. Donations in his memory may be made to Delaware & Raritan Greenway, One Preservation Place, Princeton, NJ 08540.

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