Grace Elaine Harper was born Jan. 18, 1948, in Port Arthur. She graduated from Kirbyville High School in 1966 and served her country in the U.S. Navy following graduation. She died Nov. 4, 2018, at her home in Centerville after battling multiple myeloma cancer.
Grace was preceded in death by her parents, James Ralph Harper Sr. and Grace Gwendolyn (Montgomery) Harper; sister, Laura Elizabeth Harper; brother, James Ralph Harper Jr.; and grandparents, William Tolbert and Leila Mae (Shoemaker) Montgomery and Joe and Martha (Smith) Harper.
She is survived by daughters, Brandi Rene (Reed) Wiseman and husband, Dan, of Midway, and Grace Dale “Sissi” (Reed) McCurry and husband, Roane, of Centerville; and sister, Wynette (Harper) Sowell and husband, Paul, of Jasper. Grace is also survived by grandchildren, Claire Wiseman, Harper Wiseman and Lornah Wiseman, all of Midway, Jay McCurry of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and Jacob McCurry of Centerville.
Grace retired as a postmaster from the Leona Post Office in Leona, but her real passion was raising and showing Australian cattle dogs and Australian stumpy tail cattle dogs. Gravan Kennels was the prefix Grace had raised the Australian cattle dog under since 1981. She received her first heeler, “Goblin,” in 1967. For years she had nothing but heelers proving that once you have had a cattle dog, nothing else would do. She acquired an Australian cattle dog import named “Erostoga Jillaroo of Australia” in 1981. The name was eventually shortened to “Jill” by Grace and her daughters, Brandi and “Sissi.” As the dam of 22 titled get, Jill remains the breed’s mother of the most-titled get. She was the foundation of a legacy that still continues today. Gravan Kennel produced more than 80 AKC Champions, a BOB World Show Winner, ACD Specialty Winner’s Dog, Winner’s Bitch, Stud Dog, Award of Merit placements and four times Westminster breed winners.
In the 1990s, at about the same time that Grace’s daughters were graduating high school and moving on to college, she shifted her focus to Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dogs, a direct ancestor of the Australian Cattle Dog. She had extensively researched the breed and thought that she could better serve in the professional dog breeding world by taking on a breed that was in need of help. She soon met Tom McManus of Silver Park Stumpys in 2001 which started a partnership that has endured to the present day.
Grace had also worked as a freelance artist and illustrated books for well-known and respected AKC Judge Pat Hastings, as well as informative Australian cattle dog writings by Narelle Hammonds.
A celebration of Grace’s life was held Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018, at Walters Funeral Home in Centerville. A graveside service will take place at a later date in Hemphill.
Honorary pallbearers were her grandsons and granddaughters
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Madison County 4-H, 300 W. School St., Madisonville, TX 77864 or Centerville ISD FFA, Attn: Dana Warren, 813 S. Commerce St., Centerville, TX 75833.