Harper Evans: A Man of Influence
My paternal grandfather’s name was Henry Harper Evans, but he was “Grandpa Harper” to me. Grandpa Harper graduated from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point and rose to the rank of Chief Engineer while sailing Liberty Ships during and after World War II. He became the youngest-ever Commander in Chief of Fleet! After the war ended, he moved home to Georgia with his wife, Midge, and became an entrepreneur. He operated several of his own businesses over the next 70 years, and he and Grandma Midge raised a whole family of entrepreneurs! He owned a business in Griffin, Georgia designing and building custom trucks and equipment that was open for 30 years. He was also a brilliant mathematician and an inventor.
I remember Grandpa Harper as an extremely calm, wise, and gentle man who loved children. He had a wonderful sense of humor and I remember him always with kind eyes and a warm smile. He was incredibly resourceful and made friends effortlessly. My cousin Emma recalls that in any room, Grandpa Harper always seemed like the seasoned leader of the pack. Not much could faze his peaceful demeanor, and he was always very positive and welcoming.
As I look at my life today, I can see clearly how Grandpa Harper’s influence helped me become the person I am. He loved having his family all together, and so do I. He modeled the importance of family as the bedrock of society, and that made a huge impact on my value system growing up. Emma remembers that Grandpa Harper always showed up, even when it didn’t seem like there was a reason to. Even after our grandma passed away, he still always made the effort to support his grandkids. Every graduation, every soccer or baseball game, every ballet performance or honors night, he was there so long as he could be. He made people feel important and connected.
I have so many wonderful memories of my grandpa—too many to list here, but one of my favorites is from when I was very small. Grandpa Harper would dress up like Santa Claus for our family Christmas gathering at his house every year. His kindness, warmth, and good humor made him the perfect Santa!
How am I like my Grandpa Harper? I can see many similarities. My dad says that my grandfather and I are both “intelligent, pragmatic, compassionate, hardworking people who love family and are widely helpful to and accepting of others” while our differences are “mostly generational and gender-related.” I also posed this question to my cousin Emma, who remembers that our grandpa never let the things that happened to him make him bitter. Maybe that’s one reason he lived such a happy life. He overcame many obstacles, and Emma says that she sees a lot of that same strength in me.
Grandpa Harper was constantly learning, and so am I. He appreciated his education very much and never took it for granted, because it gave him a life he never would have dreamed of as a little boy growing up on a farm during the Depression. Grandma Midge and Grandpa Harper initially bonded over their mutual love of learning new things, and that kept them together for the long haul. Like my grandpa, I’ve always loved, and excelled in, school. I’m always reading and learning new things, and that’s very much a trait my grandpa and I have in common.
I also share Grandpa Harper’s love for being outside surrounded by nature. He enjoyed being in a city, but there’s a reason why he built a home in the country with lots of land and forest surrounding it. He loved to be in the woods, carving paths or chopping wood to build fires in the winter. That’s probably why I’m always in the mood for a hike or kayaking trip, and love to soak up the sun!
Thank you, Harper Evans, for being my grandpa!