Since coming to Danville, the Columbus, Ohio, native also has been working as an AmeriCorps volunteer. She helped with the reading program at Jennie Rogers Elementary School for two years. She found her niche and now assists with reading during the after-school program at Jennie Rogers.
Harper says reading is a favorite pastime.
"I like poems. One of my favorites is Langston Hughes."
Although she grew up in Columbus, Harper says she has many fond memories of visiting relatives in Mount Sterling. Her parents were born there and left in 1940 to move to Columbus. The Harpers' three children and two grandchildren all live in Columbus.
Her grandmother was an outstanding cook
When Harper's family visited Kentucky, she says her grandmother always made rolls, ice cream and candy pudding. Her grandmother was an outstanding cook, she says.
"I have never tasted a roll as good as my grandmother made. Nor have I tasted ice cream as good as hers."
Unfortunately, Harper says, she will never taste candy pudding again.
"None of my dear aunties remember how to make it," she says.
For family gatherings now, Harper says line dancing is part of their tradition. The electric slide is one of their favorites.
"I don't think I've been to an African-American gathering in recent years that there was dancing and we didn't do the electric slide," Harper says.
Harper was hesitant at first, but her children insisted that she participate.
"They said, 'Mom, everybody's doing the electric slide. You're going to have to learn it."
Another family tradition of celebrating Good Friday began 25 year ago.
"My husband's uncle, my husband, his brother and their cousins loved to hunt.
"They would save all their game and after the Good Friday service, we would brunch with the wild game. The men would usually prepare it."
Harper says that tradition has evolved as her sister-in-law took charge.
"She's upscaled it. We don't have the wild game anymore."
Instead, they dress up with a theme.
"We've done African-American, Hawaiian. We've had Italian food. This year, I think it's New York."
Harper says with her children grown, she often eats out rather than cook.
"I do just enough to get by," she says. "We go out quite a bit. It's a little easier."
For family gatherings though, she may be asked to bring her shrimp dip. She got the recipe from a friend years ago.
"I'm asked quite often to bring it when we have something," she says.
Her cooking requirements may change in future years as she and her husband plan to return to Columbus when he retires. Or maybe it won't, as Harper will be busy taking advantage of the money she earned for college while serving as an AmeriCorps volunteer.
"I'm learning toward studying all types of religion."
12 ounces cream cheese
12 ounces cocktail sauce (she uses Del Monte)
Two 6-ounce cans small shrimp
2 cups mild salsa
Two 6-ounce cans crab meat
2 cans sliced olives
Layer each item in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Top with 2 cups of shredded cheese. Harper uses mild Colby. Cut up green onions to decorate on top. Serve with tortilla chips.