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Craig Thayer Harper, 87, died at home Wednesday, December 9, 2015, in the arms of his loving family.  Craig was born in Evansville, Indiana on January 19, 1928 to Clara and Earl Harper. His family later moved to Iowa City where he discovered his love for canoeing and swimming in the Iowa River.  Though they both went to the same high school in Iowa City, Craig met his beloved Marisol in Mexico City where their families were vacationing – the beginning of a 62-year love story that will continue through the ages. He married Marisol in Iowa City in 1953.

Craig graduated from the University of Iowa in 1951 and went on to seminary at Boston University where he completed his theological degree. He was ordained as a Methodist minister in 1954. Marisol and Craig lived in Boston and after graduation settled in Portland, Oregon where he began his ministry. Sailing on the Columbia River and hiking in the Cascade Mountains convinced Craig that the Pacific Northwest was his true home. 

He ministered to so many people as the pastor of Methodist churches in Portland, Tacoma, and Des Moines. Craig then settled for 21 years as the Program Director at the University Unitarian Church in Seattle where he brought so much heart and soul counseling and serving that community.

Craig loved adventure, spending summers as a young man serving in forest fire lookout towers in the mountains of Idaho and later realizing the voyage of his dreams when he sailed single-handed from Seattle to southeast Alaska and back. His passion for the outdoors was infectious - from tromping in the woods with his beloved dogs, to exploring the beaches of the San Juan Islands, to RV camping in San Diego. He was happiest when he was in nature and sharing it with his family.

Craig is survived by so many who deeply love him – his wife Marisol; daughters Suzanne, Julie and Kim; in-law sons and daughters Mark, Jean, Robin, Chris and Katy; grandkids Heather, Valerie, Trevor, Stephen, Lena and Robynn; great grandkids Avery, Harper, John and Reid; his sister Shirley, brother-in-law Bob and many loving nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his grandson Ben whom he loved very much, his parents and older brother Hugh.

Craig’s biggest passion in life was his love for his family. Always supportive and encouraging, Craig was a man of great kindness, compassion and wisdom. He was fun-loving, a great story teller and a man who enjoyed the beauty of even the simplest things in life. He was a seeker of joy.

Craig and his family are so grateful to Group Health Hospice and nurse Margo, along with Judy, Melissa, Jana, Maryanne, and Leslie, the wonderful caregivers who nurtured him through his last months. The family will honor and remember him in a private gathering. Please share your memories of Craig online at


I'm glad I got to know Craig as I did while visiting Kim and Robin. I very quickly realized he was a special man and knew of his love of adventure and his solo sailing trip to Alaska and was entertained and impressed listening to the stories about these adventures. But after reading this obituary I realize how much more there was to this warm and loving man. I feel privileged to have spent what time I did with him and all the family members I was with at the wedding. My heart goes out to all of you. I know how blessed your memories are.

Love, Louise

The few times we met I remember how happy and engaged he was. I know he will be missed but will live on in the hearts and minds of all who knew him.

Jeff Stern

I got to personally experience Craig's love of the outdoors and sense of adventure when he took some 8 of us 12-year old girls, friends of daughter Suzanne as well as his other daughters, on a 5-night hiking trip from Lake Tipsu on Chinook Pass to Bumping Lake at White Pass. Some would call that brave, some crazy and it certainly was that, but it speaks to his generosity and big heart. We prepped for weeks, following his instructions, walking for hours with cans of soup in our backpacks all around DesMoines. I had never been hiking before, yet alone backpacking. It was an adventure and experience that I've been forever greatful for.

Terry Denend

We feel fortunate to have met and known this beautiful man through his daughter, Kim. We know he was a great moral force in Kim and her wife Robin's lives and can only imagine how he was that to many others. His is a beautiful, beautiful man! We are sending our love to his wife, Marisol, who is remarkable in her own right, and to the rest of his family, especially Kim. 

Renee Holt and Amie Bishop

I only met Craig as his caregiver in the last month of his life. I've been a caregiver for about 4 years but I have never met a kinder, more supportive and more loving family. Craig himself maintained a positive, uncomplaining and at times humorous attitude throughout, though I know he must have been in pain. There was a moment in the middle of the night when he was up, and he looked over at me, and I at him, and it was just one of those moments that said everything, with poignancy, humor, and tenderness - sort of like "well, then.." Everyone in this family is a grown up, and acted like it. It is an understatement to say that it was an honor and a privilege to be there.

Marianne Scruggs

Dear Marisol, Belatedly I learned of Craigs death. I thought I had your address so I could write a note, but I don't have. My thoughts are with you and your family at this sad time. I enjoyed working alongside Craig at the church when I was bookkeeper and considered him a good friend. He was a very caring person. The words he spoke when we were on the boat at Magnolia Point were perfect when we scattered Bud's ashes. It is difficult losing a dear one, especially as you watch him decline. I feel certain that you and your family have a lot of fun memories during the years that you were together. I hope they can help you through this time.
Take good care of yourself - 
Sincerely, Margaret Girtch

Margaret S. Girtch

Oh Dad, how I miss you. Wearing this life without you is something I am not prepared very well to do. I'm focusing now on mom and trying hard to
be there for her. I am so grateful that I was holding your hand when you took your last breath. You taught me so much in your vibrant days of life and you taught me so much in your quiet last days. I love you so.


What a lovely man. I remember how gracious he was to Davey and I when he took us out sailing. Marisol, you have 62 years of memories to cherish and keep forever in your heart. He will be with you always. My thoughts are with you.

Gloria Cerney

Make a donation to The Co-op Funeral Home of People's Memorial