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Harley D Zephier Sr.

July 1, 1935 ~ February 10, 2024 (age 88) 88 Years Old

Harley Zephier Sr. Obituary

Harley Dean Zephier, Sr.
Circle Owl/Saved by the Bear

July 1, 1935 – February 10, 2024

Harley Dean Zephier, Sr., 88, of Aberdeen, SD, passed into the Spirit world Sat., Feb. 10, 2024, at home with his family by his side.

Much loved, Harley was born in Pine Ridge, SD, to parents Antoine and Victoria (Aungie) Zephier. Harley is now reunited with his wife of 65 years, Alverda, who passed away in 2021.

A member of the Yankton (Inhanktanwon) Dakota Tribe, he graduated from Dupree High School in 1955. Dupree was also where he met Alverda. With his young family, he went on to graduate from Yankton College in 1962 with a bachelor’s degree in education and continued to enjoy playing guitar, visiting family and, of course, sports.

His love of sports began when he competed in basketball, football, track, baseball, and softball in numerous schools. Although his family moved often, basketball remained a steady and a favorite in his life. He led the Todd County High School Falcons to the State Class B basketball tourney in 1953 and then played with much success for the Dupree Tigers with his younger brother Richard. He played basketball for the Yankton College Greyhounds, and became an All-Conference and Little All-American as a four-year starter for the team. In 2017, he was inducted into the South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame, and he became part of the only father-son inductee pair with his son Harley Jr. (2022). Basketball remained important all through his 88 years, following NBA, college ball and local teams. The NFL came in a close second to his love of basketball. 

Harley’s professional career began with teaching and coaching (1962-1965) at Columbia and Lyons High School. His long career with the federal government began in 1965, when he moved the family to South Sioux City, NE, to work at the Indian Health Service (IHS) hospital in nearby Winnebago. In 1969, he became the Service Unit Director of the IHS Hospital in Pine Ridge and served until 1973, when he was appointed to Area Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) in Aberdeen. In 1979, the family moved back to Winnebago, where he resumed coaching basketball until pursuing a master’s degree in education at the University of South Dakota. With a degree in hand, it was back to Aberdeen in 1981 as an education specialist with the BIA until he retired in 1992. Retirement was put aside from 1994-1995 to offer his leadership skills as general manager of the Ft. Randall Casino, his tribe’s casino.

Harley and Alverda settled down for their remaining days in Aberdeen in 1995 and enjoyed time with family, traveling to Western and Southern states, enjoying time with their children and grandchildren, watching sports and soaps, gardening, and going to casinos. They supported the Native American Cultural Center and Museum in Aberdeen, with Harley serving as board president and Alverda as spiritual leader and board member throughout the life of the organization (2003-2017).

His spiritual life included following in the footsteps of his grandfather, father, and brother, active in four Episcopal Church congregations in South Sioux City and Pine Ridge, including roles as licensed lay reader and secretary of the Bishop’s Committee. He was instrumental in the Sioux City, IA, American Indian Center as board chairman. Also grounded in Native spirituality, Harley spent time praying with Alverda and family, and many days praying with the buffalo (Tatanka) at Wylie Park in Aberdeen after her passing.

His survivors include sons Loren Zephier, Harley Zephier, Jr., Robin (Patti) Zephier and Darin (Buddie) Zephier; daughters Whitley Zephier and Lanni (Lance) Zephier Smith; sister Evon Zephier; brother-in-law Donald Wince and sister-in-law Mary Lou Zephier; grandchildren Mercury Zephier Smith, Jared Zephier, Derek Zephier, Charlie Bercier and Dannielle Zephier; and many nephews, nieces and great grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by both parents and his wife; brothers Antoine (Andy), Nelson, Robert, Richard and William; sisters Darlene, Charlene and Jewel.  

To honor his wishes, a private memorial and cremation rites were held Feb. 12. Carlsen Funeral Home & Crematory, 1708 8th Ave NE, Aberdeen, is handling arrangements. Family and friends may sign the online guestbook at www.aberdeenfuneralhome.com.

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