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Harlan Irby Prater III

January 28, 1935 — March 18, 2024


Harlan Irby Prater, III, of Fayette, Alabama, died peacefully at home on March 18, 2024, after a brief illness. He was 89 years old.

Harlan was born on January 28, 1935, in Birmingham, Alabama, to the late Bernice Arthur Prater and Harlan Irby Prater, Jr.  He attended Shades Cahaba Elementary School, where he skipped kindergarten by fully mastering his reading, writing and arithmetic skills by age five. Harlan moved to Weston, Massachusetts, and graduated in 1952 from Wellesley High School, where he was known as “Bama” Prater and was a star player on the Raiders basketball team. Harlan graduated from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, in 1956, where he played on the varsity basketball team and was a member of Sigma Nu fraternity.  Popularity was not a problem for Harlan—he never met a stranger, nor was he reluctant to speak or make others laugh, traits which continued until his very last days.  

Following college, Harlan served in the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division in Germany for two years. After being awarded the Army Parachutist Badge, he was honorably discharged. On September 6, 1959, Harlan married the love of his life, Joyce Ruffin Prater, of Millport, Alabama. They resided in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, before making Fayette their home in 1965. That same year, Harlan established The Prater Company, an insurance and real estate agency, which he owned and operated until his retirement in 2000. The Prater Company bears his name to this day.

Harlan was a faithful member of Fayette First United Methodist Church. He served in various roles, including as Chair of the Finance Committee, the Administrative Board, and the Board of Trustees, for several terms. He was a respected leader in the Fayette community, where, among other things, he founded the local Jaycees chapter and was named Fayette’s Man of the Year. Harlan enjoyed his many years as emcee of the West Alabama Junior Miss Pageant, and his array of colorful sport coats was always an audience favorite. His passions included anything related to golf—from playing his regular games at Fayette Country Club and NorthRIver Yacht Club, to attending The Masters and U.S. Open almost every year, to taking golf trips with his friends.  He never missed a chance to hug every woman in the room. An avid University of Alabama sports fan, Harlan proudly wore his gameday attire each football Saturday.  His love for his family was unconditional, and he was the best father, grandfather and great-grandfather ever. Harlan was fair. He was honest. He was kind. He was strong. He had a wry, self-deprecating   and affectionate wit. Most of all, for over 64 years, his love for Joyce was boundless.   It was often said that no man ever loved a woman as much as Harlan loved Joyce. Their love is eternal.

Harlan is survived by Joyce; daughter, Joy (Stuart) Griswold of Northport, AL, son, Harlan Irby Prater, IV (Ann) of Birmingham, AL, and daughter, Jane (Frank) Yerger of Oxford, MS; sister, Jane (William) Barker of Scottsdale, AZ; nine grandchildren, Lee Griswold (Kyle) Smith of Guin, AL, Catherine Ruffin Prater of Denver, CO, Lynne Griswold (Brad) Turner of Moss Point, MS, Florence Prater (Marcus) Curaca of Arlington, VA, Lucy Brock (Alex) Loose of Charlotte, NC, Thompson Leland Brock (Emily) of Charlotte, NC, Frank Montague Yerger, Jr., of Birmingham, AL, Sarah Jane Rivers Yerger of Oxford, MS, and Harlan Prater Yerger of Oxford, MS; five great-grandchildren, Kylee Joy, Lily Jane and Claire Louise Smith, James Edward (“JT”) Turner, and James Leland Brock; and many cousins, nieces and nephews. He is predeceased by a brother, Jerry Arthur Prater (Grace).  

A service of celebration will be held at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, March 22, at Fayette First Methodist Church, 412 Temple Avenue North, Fayette, Alabama. The family will welcome friends in the Sanctuary prior to the service from 11:00 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Senior Pastor Chris Herbert and Dr. T. Michael Morgan will officiate. Honorary pallbearers will be Bill Caldwell, Larry Ruffin, Horace Berry, Tommy Norwood, and Larry Humber. Norwood-Wyatt Chapel will be directing the service.

The family is grateful to Bridgette Sykes for her loving care of Harlan and Joyce.

In lieu of flowers, the family respectfully requests that memorial donations are made to Fayette First Methodist Church, 412 Temple Avenue North, Fayette, Alabama 35555, or the organization of your choice.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Harlan Irby Prater III, please visit our flower store.


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