Brian Harper died unexpectedly, with loved ones at his side, on Friday, April 28, 2023. Brian was born on August 25, 1957 to James and Eileen Harper. His childhood was spent in Allenhurst, New Jersey with his five siblings. After graduating from Ocean Township High School, Brian bought a one way ticket to California. He never looked back! He spent time with his brother Kevin in Santa Cruz, and also with his brother Jim in Florida. After his stint in Florida he made a decision to get back to California and ended up in the Kettenpom area, where he married Lynne Stephens and his beloved son Zuma was born. Brian and Zuma were devoted to one another, working together at Brian’s business and living on adjacent properties. When Brian was diagnosed with cancer a few months ago, Zuma made his Dad’s comfort and care his highest priority.

Brian owned and managed Specialized Woodworks, which he established on the premises of Dazey’s Supply in 1986. His growing business brought him to larger quarters in Redway. A highly skilled artisan, Brian created specialty cabinetry and custom woodwork pieces, and installed kitchens as well as commercial and domestic infrastructure. Many homes and businesses in our area display the results of his design and skill. Brian used his business as a nexus for community development, generously donating to many community and nonprofit events and productions. He got along very well with our community’s younger generations, and made himself and his workshop available for youth work experience programs, involving South Fork High School students who were interested in woodworking, guiding them toward good work habits, and sharing his skills as a fine craftsman.

Brian was dedicated to the idea of personal participation in building our community. He was a longtime volunteer at People Productions and the Mateel Community Center’s Reggae on the River, working with Roger Safier, who became one of his close friends. Brian was great friends with David Thomas and Karyn Lee Thomas and the late Harold Mendes, and Harold brought Brian into Rotary. Brian became President and service co-chair of the local Rotary in 2013-14. He was proud of his Paul Harris Plus-One status in the organization, which is awarded for philanthropic and service contributions. Brian’s longtime dear friend Peter Connolly brought him into the Redway Volunteer Fire Department, where he was trained by Ernie Branscomb. Brian’s natural leadership abilities brought him to the position of Assistant Chief, a position he held until his retirement in 2022. Brian gave many years of service as a volunteer and board member at Heart of the Redwoods Community Hospice. He was one of the famous Flaming Chefs of our hospice’s Taste of the Cove, Barbeque and Brew and other events. He was always one of the earliest to arrive, setting up tent pavilions and tables, starting the barbeques and cooking the food, and was always one of the last to leave after taking down and stowing all the equipment. He hosted and participated in Thursday Night Poker with a multi-generational group of friends, a regular gathering that took place for decades.

Brian’s dear friend and companion Randalyn Perkins introduced him to the adventures of international travel, and they enjoyed many trips in the company of close friends, including Karyn Lee Thomas and David Thomas, Brian and Robin Elie, Peter and Debby Connolly, and others, visiting Argentina, Brazil, France, Greece, Italy and South Africa with them. In their company, he learned to appreciate fine wines and the best quality liquors, which he enjoyed for the rest of his life. He loved his visits to Mexico and returned to that culture many times over the years.

Brian was the center of a circle of companions, many of whom developed their own connections through their relationship with him. A person of great charm and charisma, Brian loved to laugh and was famous among his friends for his dry wit. His smile could light up a room. He had a gift for making people feel valued and recognized. No matter where Brian was on any day, whether it was Specialized Woodworks, Signature Coffee, or his favorite restaurant, the Lost Frenchman, people would stop by for a chat.

Brian is survived by his beloved son Zuma, and his siblings Kevin, Doug, Joann and John and their families. He was a favorite with his many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his oldest brother Big Jim and his parents. Brian’s extended family includes Kathleen, Josh, Laura and Selena Sweet; Stephen Dazey; his dear friends Keith Gifford and his wife Kazumi and their daughter Namiko; Peter, Debby and the Connolly family; David Thomas and Karyn Lee Thomas; Roger Safier; Randalyn, Jake and Aaron Perkins; Brian and Robin Elie; his long time neighbors in the Kettenpom area and Redway, and throughout Southern Humboldt and beyond, more friends than can be named. We will miss him for the rest of our lives.

A public memorial and celebration of the life of our cherished friend and community member will take place from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 10 at a location near Garberville. Light fare, non-alcoholic beverages and mixers will be provided; you are invited to bring your own alcoholic beverage to share. Brian never said “no” to dessert, and guests are invited to bring a potluck dessert to honor that sweet tooth. Volunteers to help with different parts of the memorial will be gratefully welcomed. Please text (707) 923-2890 to RSVP, let us know the number of attendees in your party, whether you can join a crew, and to receive directions.


The obituary above was submitted on behalf of Brian Harper’s loved ones. The Lost Coast Outpost runs obituaries of Humboldt County residents at no charge. See guidelines here. Email