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
  • Geneva Wanda Harding Geneva Wanda Harding

    Geneva Wanda Harding, 86, of Orange, Texas, went home to Heaven on July 28, 2014, at The Meadows Nursing and Rehabilitation Home in Orange.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Douglas Ray Low

    Douglas Ray Low, 64, of the Six Mile Community near Hemphill, died Tuesday night in the home of his sister in Groves, Texas.

    July 31, 2014

  • Donna Bruner DeLeon

    Donna Bruner DeLeon, 60, loving mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, and friend passed away July 29, 2014.

    July 30, 2014

  • Patricia A. Zeno-Wysingle Patricia Ann “Pat” Zeno-Wysingle

    The Celebration of Life for Ms. Patricia Ann “Pat” Zeno-Wysingle will be Thursday, July 31, 2014 at 11:00 a.m. the St. Paul C.M.E. Church.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Larry Shane McCarver

    Larry Shane McCarver, 60, of Orange, passed away on July 28, 2014, at Rayburn Healthcare in Jasper.

    July 29, 2014

  • Larry Smith Larry K. Smith

    Larry K. Smith, 60, of Orange, passed away on July 26, 2014 at his residence in Orange.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Benjamin Williams Benjamin Carrel Williams

    Benjamin Carrel  Williams, 85, finished his journey on this earth Saturday, July 26, 2014.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Gloria Ann Kelly Gloria Ann Kelly

    Gloria Ann Kelly, 70, of Orange, passed away on July 27, 2014, at Baptist Hospital in Orange.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • 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

Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

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