orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

Obituaries

July 15, 2013

Tom Harken

BEAUMONT —

Tom Harken, business man and nationally-known literacy activist, succumbed to an illness in a Houston hospital on July 10. He was 76.

A Michigan native, Harken and his beloved wife, whom he fondly called Miss Melba, moved to Beaumont, Texas, in 1962. Making their home and raising their family here, they also enjoyed a summer place on Lake Sam Rayburn in Jasper County for many years before moving to Tyler.

An entrepreneur of the highest order and in the strictest sense of the word, with little formal education, Harken established and successfully ran three major businesses along with various subsidiary companies, spanning a half-century.

The cause of literacy was his passion, and even while working as a full-time CEO, Harken traveled all over the country, preaching the importance of education in hundreds of speeches. His powerful motivational talks, delivered nationwide inspired many, either to seek help in learning or to volunteer and assist those desiring to do so.

Thomas Lee "Tom" Harken was born in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, on February 10, 1937. Son of Fred and Kathryn Harken, he grew up in Lakeview, Michigan, where his father owned a small grocery store.

Dropping out of school at an early age due to illness, Harken eventually arrived in Beaumont as a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman. Succeeding with the help of Miss Melba, who taught him to read, Harken went into the recreational vehicle business, parlaying this into ownership of 15 Mexican restaurants. Eventually, he sold these and retired in order to promote literacy.

Preceded in death by his parents and sister Kathy Pierce, Tom Harken is survived by his wife, Melba Curtis Harken; sons Tommy and Mark Harken; daughter-in-law Debra Harken; and grandchildren Trace Harken, McKenzie Harken, Terran Harken and Marleigh Harken; and a brother, Ron Harken.

A gathering of family and friends is scheduled from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, July 18, at Claybar Kelley- Watkins Funeral Home, 1155 N. 11th Street, in Beaumont, claybarfuneralhome.com.  At 7:00 p.m. we will pause to honor Tom during a special time of remembrance.

Text Only
Obituaries
  • Janae Elizabeth Borel Janae Elizabeth Borel

    Janae Elizabeth Borel, 10, passed away on Saturday, July 12, 2014, in Orange, Texas.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jackie Selby Mr. Jackie C. Selby

    The Celebration of Life for Mr. Jackie C. Selby, 59, of Orange, will be Saturday, July 26, 2014, at 11:00 a.m. at the New Beginnings Outreach Church.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Otis Gene Duhon

    Otis Gene Duhon, 71, of Orange, passed away on July 21, 2014, at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Beaumont.
     

    July 22, 2014

  • Billy Wayne Smith Billy Wayne Smith

    Billy Wayne Smith, 41, of Bridge City, passed away on July 18, 2014, at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Beaumont.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Florida Denise Gates Florida Denise Gates

    Florida Denise Gates, 78, of Orange, TX, departed this life on Thursday, July 17, 2014.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Antionette Ragusa Moore Antionette Ragusa Moore

    Antionette Ragusa Moore, 63, went to her Heavenly home on July 16, 2014, surrounded by her family at her residence in Orange, Texas.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Loretta Ann Meadows Loretta Ann Meadows

    Loretta Ann Meadows, 73, of Orange, passed away on July 14, 2014, at Baptist Hospital in Beaumont.

    July 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Birla Jane Shankle Birla Jane Shankle

    Birla Jane Shankle went home to be the Lord on July 13, 2014 from her home  in Orange, Texas.

    July 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Deacon L.M. Davis Deacon L.M. Davis

    Deacon L.M. Davis, 102, of North Richland Hills, TX, formally of Orange, Texas, went home to be with the Lord on Friday, July 11, 2014.

    July 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • John Hodge Buller John Hodge Buller

    John Hodge Buller, 88, of Starks passed away on Monday, July 14, 2014 at his residence.

    July 15, 2014 1 Photo

Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide