Harper legacy family reunion: A memorable weekend of love & laughter

Published 10:04 pm Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

NEW ORLEANS – Descendants of William and Louise Harper, hailing from Garyville, Louisiana, came together at the Sheraton New Orleans from July 7th to July 9th, 2023, for a heartwarming and unforgettable family reunion. The theme of the gathering, “The Harper Legacy: Yesterday, Today, and the Future,” paid tribute to their ancestors’ rich history while celebrating the enduring bonds that united them.

The Reunion Committee, led by Chairman Gerald Harper and composed of descendants of Arthur Harper of Lutcher LA. and Valerie Harper Brown/Williams of New Orleans, LA, worked tirelessly to orchestrate a joyous weekend filled with cultural experiences and cherished family traditions.

The festivities kicked off on Friday with the Reunion Check-In, where each family member received a special “Swag” bag, including custom black and gold t-shirts adorned with a “fleur de lis,” bearing the names of William and Louise Harper and their children. The bag also contained name tags, praline candy, Mardi Gras beads, and delicious homemade tea cakes. With 60 Harper Descendants present, including two nonagenarians from as far away as India, the atmosphere was filled with warmth as family members reunited and newcomers were warmly embraced.

Friday night’s Meet and Greet Reception took place in the Governor Pinchback Suite, named after Louisiana’s first and only black governor. Laughter and stories flowed as cousins and relatives connected and formed new bonds. Creative props set the stage for candid photos, setting the tone for a weekend filled with love and togetherness.

Saturday’s highlight was a visit to Vue Orleans, an interactive cultural experience that allowed the family to immerse themselves in the history and culture of New Orleans. With state-of-the-art technology and breathtaking aerial views of the city, the experience left everyone captivated and provided an ideal backdrop for family photos against historic landmarks.

After the enriching cultural experience, the family enjoyed a delectable “grab and go” New Orleans Po-boy box lunch, followed by free time to explore the city. Some strolled through the French Quarter, while others relished the picturesque architecture and lively jazz music that permeated the streets.

Saturday evening was dedicated to the much-anticipated Heritage Banquet, featuring a Traditional French Quarter Dinner Buffet. Live smooth Jazz saxophone music set the mood for a night of celebration and appreciation. Chairman Gerald Harper expressed gratitude for the family’s resilience during the pandemic, which had caused a delay in the reunion but had now joyfully materialized.

The revered matriarch, Althea Wilderson Armstrong, delivered the keynote speech, emphasizing the importance of knowing one’s roots and family history, urging everyone to cherish their shared legacy. Michelle Bennett of Deridder, La., the originator of the Harper Family Reunion, received well-deserved recognition for her efforts.

The significance of the reunion was further magnified by proclamations from various authorities, including the President of St. John the Baptist Parish, the Mayor of New Orleans, and the New Orleans City Council. The Harper family’s deep ties to Garyville, Louisiana, where their journey began, were celebrated and commemorated during this touching moment.

Family Story Hour became an emotional and cherished time as representatives from each branch of the Harper family introduced members and shared heartwarming anecdotes and cherished traditions of the Harper Legacy. A slide show allowed everyone to recall fond memories from past reunions, capturing the enduring spirit of togetherness and love.

The reunion also paid tribute to seven deceased family members who had passed away since 2019, honoring their memories and reflecting on their contributions.

The grand finale of the weekend was a quintessential New Orleans “second line” celebration, led by Family Matriarch Althea Wilderson Armstrong. The vibrant New Orleans Brass band, accompanied by Tramp Indians and the baby dolls, had everyone dancing with joy, waving commemorative handkerchiefs.

On Sunday morning, the family gathered for a continental breakfast, cherishing every moment of their final time together and expressing gratitude for the unforgettable weekend. Each member shared their favorite memories of the reunion and looked forward to creating new ones in the future.

As the weekend drew to a close, the Harper family left New Orleans with hearts full of love, laughter, and the knowledge that their legacy would continue to thrive through the strengthened bonds. It was a weekend of “fun and family,” an “amazing,” “awesome,” and “extraordinary” time enjoyed by all. The Harper Legacy lives on proudly within each family member, eagerly anticipating the next chapter in their shared journey.

The 2024 Harper Family Reunion will be held in Cleveland, Ohio, promising another exciting chapter in their family history.