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Injured man who captured county's heart dies in sleep

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By Ben Carlson

The man who sparked an overwhelming show of generosity from Anderson County residents as he tried to recover from an accident that tore his jaw from his shattered face is dead.

Gregory Harp Jr., 28, died in his sleep Saturday while visiting his father's home in Lexington, according to family members.

Harp was injured seriously last June when the bicycle he was riding left the road, plummeting him head first into an 8-foot-deep culvert in Winchester.

Harp's face took the brunt of the impact, which shattered his facial bones into 100 pieces and ripped off his jaw.

The force of the collision popped one eye from its socket, broke two vertebrae and ribs, and smashed his teeth, one of which was driven down his throat and into a lung.

His face, collapsing in on itself for lack of a jaw and other bone structure to support it, threatened to choke off his breathing if he didn't receive major reconstructive surgery.

Harp's grandmother, Lawrenceburg resident Carolyn Burgess, issued a plea for help to offset Harp's rising medical expenses and to pay for what would be numerous future surgeries.

Anderson Countians responded in droves, raising thousands of dollars through fundraisers and donations.

Several weeks later, his grandmother revealed that Harp had misused a portion of the donated funds, and she took control over the balance to make sure the money was properly used.

Undeterred, the community continued to raise money for Harp, including a subsequent fundraiser at American Legion Park.

Harps death Saturday came as a shock to family members who said he was preparing for yet another surgery.

"This was really unexpected. He just died in his sleep," said his aunt, Judy Burgess.

"He had some kind of flu bug he was fighting for a couple of days. I saw him Friday and knew he didn't feel very good. He went to his dad's in Lexington and died that night.

"He was so thin. I think his body couldn't fight anything else."

Harp, who was scheduled to see a surgeon Dec. 7, already had endured several operations, including one July 30 to reconstruct his jaw.

Throughout the ordeal, his family members worked to keep his weight up, an uphill battle for someone whose sustenance came only through a stomach tube.

Before his accident, Harp weighed about 205 pounds. As of last October, his weight had slipped below 130, which impeded the ability for surgeons to safely operate on him.

Harp is survived by his parents, Susan Baer and Gregory Harp Sr., and leaves behind a daughter, Alexis.

Funeral services are scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 28, at Kerr Brothers Funeral Home, located at 463 E. Main St. in Lexington. Burial will be in Memory Gardens in Lexington.