Billie Jean Harper of Grand Island passed away Aug. 31, 2013.
She was the wife of the late Arthur Harper; mother of Arthur Harper Jr., Kimberly Harper, Brian (Sharon) Harper and the late Yvonne Harper; grandmother of Yashica and Yahmal Johnson, Kyla Chen, and Michael, Zachary, Joshua, Emily and Evan Harper.
Born in Greenville, S.C., Billie Jean and her husband moved to Buffalo in 1953, eventually settling with their growing family on Grand Island in the mid-1960s.
After raising her family, she started working in the Grand Island Central School District in the late 1970s, first as a part-time lunch monitor and then as a full-time hall monitor in the Senior High School, a position she proudly held until her recent retirement, in May of 2013. Generally the first person to greet visitors and students upon their arrival at the high school, Mrs. Harper, as she was known to students, parents and staff, ran a tight ship, holding the students accountable for their actions and calling them to task, when necessary. Yet, she had a ready smile and an encouraging word for all. Through her work as hall monitor, Mrs. Harper had the opportunity to comfort, console and mentor thousands of students, calling out to them by name even years after they left the halls of Grand Island High School.
Her compassion, dedication and love for the students were second only to those for her family. When her children were young, Billie Jean was active in the Grand Island Junior Vikings Football League, running the "Blue Goose" concession stand and later serving on the board.
She also served her community as a member of the Grand Island Architectural Review Advisory Board, Human Rights Commission, and on the board of the Island Dispatch under earlier ownership. In 1983, she was honored by the New York State Congress Parents and Teachers Association, Niagara District, for her outstanding service on behalf of all children and youth. For many years, she served as a member of the Democratic Committee and was named Democrat of the Year in 1984 and 1987.
Throughout the years, she also was very active in the St. Stephen R.C. Church, serving both as a member of the Altar Society and, since 2007, as a Eucharistic minister.
In 2006, Billie Jean was named Grand Island Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year-Civic. She was also selected as a 2009 Women's History Month award recipient by the New York State Senate.
Throughout her life, Billie Jean focused her tremendous energies on her family, friends, church, and her students. A well-known and respected figure on Grand Island, she will be sadly missed.
Friends may call Friday, Sept. 6, from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. at Kaiser Funeral Home, 1950 Whitehaven Road, Grand Island. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Saturday, Sept. 7, at 10 a.m. at St. Stephen R.C. Church. Memorials may be made to St. Stephen R.C. Church, 2100 Baseline Road on Grand Island.