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Ken Harper, former state rep., realtor, SOS, veteran, recalls lucky Sunday Waffle House was born in NKY

By Andy Furman
NKyTribune reporter

Sunday is a day of rest – sometimes.

And for Ken Harper, at 91, well, he remembers one Sunday very, very vividly.

“I was in Commercial Realty at the time,” he told the Northern Kentucky Tribune, “I was with Kruempelman Realtors.”

Sundays may be an off-day, but not then – and certainly not for Kruempelman.

Ken Harper

“One member of our staff had to take the Sunday desk, usually about once-a-month,” he said.

Well, this was a lucky Sunday – for Ken Harper – and for all those who love their hash browns, scattered, smothered, and covered.

“Two guys walked in and talked about sites for their business,” Harper recalled, “Guy Duram was the owner.”

Harper was more than happy to show him three sites – the first in Boone County was Marydale in Erlanger.

“Well, he ended up buying that lot, and the house on it,” Harper said, “And he moved the home, and later donated it back to the church.”

Waffle House was born in Northern Kentucky.

And for Ken Harper, working that Sunday was like winning the lottery.

“We didn’t get many lookers on a Sunday,” he said. “In fact, Duram went on to purchase another lot in Boone County.”

Today, there are more than 2,100 Waffle House locations spread across 25 states – mostly in the South.

Georgia has more locations with 381 – and more than 132 of those are in Atlanta, according to Thrillist.

South Carolina comes in second with 144 locations.

Kentucky has 62 locations, with 10 in Northern Kentucky – some still owned and operated by Duram’s son, according to Harper.

Ken Harper has seen it all – come and go.

Born in 1931 he not only saw the creation of Waffle House in Northern Kentucky – heck, he was responsible in part for it.

He attended the Kentucky Military Institute in Lyndon, Ky., which like the phone booth and Buffalo nickel is no more.

Likewise for his 10th District School which he attended as a native of Latonia.

And before he put Waffle House on the Northern Kentucky map Ken Harper was a politician in the Commonwealth. He served the Kentucky House of Representatives from 1962 to 1968 and from 1982 to 1994, as a Republican.

“I was the first Republican elected as a State Representative in my county, back in 1962,” he said.

He also served as Secretary of State of Kentucky from 1971 to 1972 – and, by the way he is a United States Air Force veteran of the Korean War.

The Covington Rotary Club has named an award in his name.

“Should anyone donate $1,000 to the club,” said past president Dave Meyer, “the award is won. And the monies can be cumulative.”

In fact, some $36,000 has been accumulated through Harper’s Award, with the funds going to the Covington Rotary Foundation.

He joined the Covington Rotary in 1954, served as President in 1959 and holds the distinction as the longest – and oldest – living member.

His key to longevity?

He wouldn’t answer – but perhaps breakfast at Waffle House.

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