The Harper Family of Hollister held their triennial family reunion from Aug. 31 to Sept. 1 on Labor Day weekend.
Descendents of the late Rev. Burgess and Tempie Harper started the reunion with a Memorial Service at the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Hollister, the church founded by Rev. Harper more than 100 years ago. The service inspirational speaker was Robert “Bobby” Banks, great-grandson of Rev. Harper. Music selections were by Daryl Hedgepeth, Pam Richardson and their parents Lelah and Thomas Hedgepeth. Lelah is formally a Cyrus, cousin of the Harpers. Music selections were also performed by sisters Mildred Harper and Mary Ann Harper Manning. Candles were lit for family members that have passed during the last three years. This particular day is not a normal service day for members of the church but a day in which the Harper family plan and participate in their own service.
After the memorial services, a picnic was held at Medoc National Park, catered by Hunter Hill Caterers of Rocky Mount.
On Sunday, the family held a Banquet and Dance at the Gateway Centre in Rocky Mount. The Harper Family has a Scholarship Fund Chaired by Harriette Harper B. Ward.
The Scholarship Fund awarded four scholarships this year. These scholarships are normally awarded to direct decedents of Rev. Burgess and Tempie Harper. This year the scholarships were awarded to Naima Reddick ($3,000) of Tampa, Fla., a sophomore at Cornell University in Syracuse, N.Y., granddaughter of Harriette Ward; Alexis Wainwright ($2,500) of Bowie, Md., a sophomore at NC A&T State University in Greensboro, granddaughter of Cynthia Harper Harris; Max Burgess Harper Belfield ($2,000) of Boston, Mass., attending Bunker Hill Community College who plans on transferring to a four-year college, great-grandson of Argenta “Boots” Harper Belfield and Andrienne Boone ($1,500) of Raleigh, a sophomore at East Carolina University in Greenville, granddaughter of Harriette Ward.
The scholarship fund was started by Harriette with the assistance of Claudia Harper Brinkley and the first scholarship was awarded in 1998; a total of $27,450.00 has been awarded since the inception and a total of 18 scholarships have been awarded thus far. Money for the scholarships is donated voluntarily by Harper family members continuously every three years.
A newsletter is prepared every reunion keeping family members updated on the happenings of various families. A dance with a DJ immediately followed the dinner.
Those that stayed for the dance enjoyed doing the latest dances while the rain storm roared that Sunday night. Tina Harper Green awarded prizes made personally by her to several members at the Banquet.
The oldest decedent attending the reunion was Argenta “Boots” Harper Belfield, 93, of Charlotte, the second oldest living grandchild of Rev. Harper. Julia Walter Harper Lynch, 97 of Philadelphia, Penn., is the oldest living grandchild but not able to attend the reunion.
The reunion was coordinated by Cynthia Harper Harris of Prince Georges County, Md., and Jill Harper-Lewis of Washington, DC. Cynthia has coordinated the family reunion since 1998 with McCellan Copeland of Hollister. McCellan relinquished his duties at the 2010 reunion and this year Cynthia did likewise. Cynthia is a grandchild of Rev. Harper; McCellan and Jill are both great-grandchildren of Rev. Harper. Cynthia and McCellan were commended for their services for coordinating past reunions.
Several Harper decedents will coordinate the reunion the next time with members taking various portions of the reunion rather than the entire venue as in the past.
Most Harpers in attendance were from the Northeast coast of Massassachusetts and the lower East coast of Florida.