Eleanor Emery Harper, born on July 11, 1919, passed away peacefully on July 19, 2016 with her loving family around her. She and her late husband were long time residents of Lyme.
Raised in Denver with her four siblings, Eleanor graduated from the Kent School For Girls where she developed a strong interest in the arts, specifically drama, singing and literature. She went on to Bryn Mawr College and earned a BA in English. Following graduation, she studied drama at The New School in New York City, supporting herself with odd jobs. She worked in the product placement department at an advertising agency, at MGM Studios as a story analyst, and as an assistant at a reducing salon. At night, she pursued her other great love, singing, performing in nightclubs. In 1947 she married Paul C. Harper, Jr., with whom she had six children, including two sets of twins. They remained devoted partners until his passing in 2013.
The obligatory summary of Eleanor’s life doesn’t nearly capture the warmth, humor, iron will, intelligence and devotion that her family and friends had the privilege to experience. A loving mother and wife, she dedicated herself to the task of raising her children and creating a home built on love and connection. She encouraged creativity, sensitivity, achievement and was her family’s most ardent cheerleader. And through the ups and downs of domestic life, she sang. She sang when laboring over yet another meal for eight. She sang when changing myriad diapers. She sang in church. She sang when she tucked the children in at night. And she sang, most joyously, with her beloved daughters, all of whom inherited her angelic voice.
When her children left home, Eleanor turned her extraordinary energies to writing, producing three memoirs. “Love Around Us” chronicled her early life in Denver, still very much a frontier town. In “Love Between Us” she told of a budding romance with a young advertising executive and Yale graduate who became her husband of 67 years. “Love Among Us” recalled early motherhood, a perilous but rewarding journey of budget stretching and cramped Chicago apartments.
To her three sons and three daughters, to her fourteen grandchildren, to her five great grandchildren, she gave the gifts of empathy, humanity, humor, grace and, most of all, love. She wrote, “When the children were little, I had thought love was a kind of gentle mist that floated around us, drifted between us, that could be summoned and focused by a hug, a cookie or a song. But now that they were older I felt love more as a force that drove through our differences and difficulties until they were settled and we could see how to move ahead. Not just a mist, but a powerful force, and I meant to keep it among us. Whatever my faults and failures, I meant it to last.”
Eleanor Emery Harper’s love remains the song in all of our hearts.