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Your account of your relationship with this remarkable man is inspiring.

Mr. Harper embodies the ideals of public service, and his example serves to remind us that there is more to public service than public office.

Thanks for introducing him to us through this blog.



I have known teachers like your Mr. Harper. My life, like yours, is better because of their guidance and instruction.

Thank you for sharing Mr. Harper with us.

As I read your tome this a.m. I found myself weeping openly in reflection upon two teachers I had at Sahuaro (Tucson) and at the joy and inspiration that Mr. Harper clearly brought to his students.

Much like you, I had the opportunity to speak to Dr. David Ashcraft recently upon his 30 year retirement from Sahuaro. Twenty years post hence his tenure as my fine arts teacher I realize what an impact his choir and music theory instruction had on my life and how those lessons and drive for discipline and excellence have applied to all that I do.

We wish your Mr. Harper Godspeed as he moves forward. This post reminds me of two thank yous due two groups - if you are free, thank a soldier. If you can read, thank a teacher.

God Bless,

A good teacher is priceless. thanks for sharing this, Greg.

A very thoughtful tribute, Greg. We honor too many people after they have taken leave of these earthly bounds.

Thank you, Mr. Harper.

In my life, it would be: Thank you, Mr. Lindsay.


Reading your account of Mr. Tommy Harper made me laugh and cry at the same time. We need more teachers like Mr. Harper who positively impact children's lives for a lifetime. Those of us who sat through Tommy's class and got caught masticating like bovines, sometimes more than once, are now being taught one last lesson. Mr. Harper's grace and strength in the face of adversity and his unyielding devotion to God are life lessons for us all.

Thank you for expressing so eloquently what many of us feel about Tommy.


Thanks for sharing! (choking back tears)

He clearly knew he had made his mark. You honored him by staying in touch.

God bless you for deferring to a brother.

The saddest thing about teaching is the likelihood of never knowing the good you've done. God bless Mr. Harper and the students who did. So no tears here.

Mr. Harper sounds like an extraordinary man. He is certainly a credit to the profession of teaching. I mean no disrespect by discussing public policy here.

Someday a cure will be developed for melanoma. Unfortunately, it won't be discovered in time to help Mr. Harper.

Anytime someone I care about passes away, I can't help but think that things could be -- and should be -- different.

Spending on medical research is a very tiny percentage of the federal government's budget. How tiny? Total spending on ALL types of scientific research, including medical research, is less than 3%.

What if society made a REAL commitment to medical research -- say 10 to 15% of the federal budget? What if we made truly huge investments into research aimed at curing diseases like cancer and mitigating the effects of aging on the human body?

There are precedents in American history a massive reseach effort. The Manhattan Project developed the atomic bomb, and the Apollo program put man on the moon.

Each of these 'crash' programs cost significant percentages of the United States' GDP at the time -- and delivered the promised results and spin-off technologies too.

Why is there no 'Manhattan Project' for curing cancer? Why not a 'moon shot' effort aimed at slowing the effects of aging? Surly such efforts, even if only partially successful, would save lives and reduce human suffering.

In financial terms, big investments in medical research would pay for itself by improving the health and lifespan of taxpayers.

Of course, the most important dividends would be personal -- more health and life for each of us to spend with people we care about.

God bless Mr. Harper and his family and friends.

Beautiful, Greg! Thank you! I have news for you, "anonymous".... none of us are making it out of here alive. For those of us with faith, the time and the manner that we leave this earth are up to Him. Mr. Harper is just meeting the goal sooner than the rest of us!

Greg...wow, what a wonderful tribute. Because of people like Mr. Harper, ain't life grand? Kurt

Annie - You say that "For those of us with faith, the time and the manner that we leave this earth are up to Him." Touching sentiment, but it isn't ENTIRELY true though, is it?

I suspect you visit the doctor when ill and, if medically necessary, get a prescription for antibiotics. If that an attempt to change the time you leave earth, what is?

Antibiotics didn't invent themselves -they're the product of medical research and pharmaceutical manufacturing. We take them for granted, but they save many adults and children from early death due to simple infections.

Someday, cancer will be cured. It is entirely possible the cure may come in the form of a series of pills as easy to take as antibiotics. Why not speed up the search for this cure, to spare loved ones from a painful, premature death?

I too am a person of faith, but I recognize that God has given human beings the intelligence and ingenuity with which to devise solutions that make our lives more comfortable and longer.

One can trust in God's goodness while still supporting increased medical research. Of all the things we spend money on as taxpayers, medical research is one of the most worthy expenditures. New medical knowledge and technology can save lives -- not just for us, but for future generations as well.

I'm sad that I -- and people I care about -- will die earlier than necessary because we as a society failed to adequatly invest in medical research. This is really an issue we need to get our elected officals working on.

I lost my own personal Mr. Harper earlier this year. I attended the viewing and funeral, which were packed with alumni from many generations. What a difference one good person can make.

In a era where we worship celebrities who are mostly notable for their bad behavior, really good teachers, ones like your Mr. Harper, are the true heroes of the day.

An awesome tribute to and awesome man. I believe it is incumbant upon all of us to occasionally reflect on our lives and offer thanks and praise to those who kept us headed down the right road. Mr. Harper was obvioulsy intstumental in changing your course and helped you to stay on the right path. Whether you know it or not, you in turn have done that for many others, including me. Thank you Mr. Harper for extinguishing Greg's welding torch.
God Bless Mr. Harper

I had a Latin teacher who changed my life but not to the extent that Mr. harper changed yours.
She was the first teacher who let me know that "girls can do just about anything". She also opened my eyes to the vast world of learning. Her classes were fun....in contrast to the rest of my classes. I can still sing "Now is the Hour" (then a pop tune) in the Latin into which I translated it.
Kids don't take Latin anymore and can barely speak English. In those pre-electronic days we had to make our own entertainment....I hate to be an old fogey but life was better then.

Thank you, Greg.

Anonymous, I so appreciate what you are saying. I lost my 3 year old daughter to Leukemia 7 years ago. No hard feelings, I have to view my daughter's death as perfectly orchestrated by Him to survive it! I love modern medicine and appreciate research... bone marrow transplants in particular (personal experience)! I should have left your posting alone... Greg's story was so touching, I just thought that it was bad timing for a discussion on medical research and Federal funding for it, that's all.

Greg, thank you for posting this tribute to Mr. Harper. My daughter was so lucky to have been in his AP literature class this last year and has been so inspired by him. He is the kind of teacher and man that the word awesome was created for. And his talk at Salpointe's graduation was both humorous and dignified and brought all of us to tears and to our feet.

Wow, what a story!! He'll live on both in spirit and in the lives he touched.

I've never met you before but I would like to thank you for writing this. It is simply spectacular. It's hard to make someone like me tear up, but you've accomplished that. I had the pleasure of having Mr. Harper as a teacher this last year in AP Lit, and I think it is safe to say he's going straight to heaven. What a truly blessed man. Thank you so much. You know if he could see us right now he would probably tell us he was not mad. God bless you Greg.

Teddy Ware '08

Greg, thank you for writing this article. In the words of Mr. Harper "Alright, A+." I had the privilege of having Mr. Harper as my English teacher just this past school year, my senior year. I guess Salpointe really did save the best for last as far as teachers are concerned.

I have never met a teacher who was as committed to teaching and to his students as Mr. Harper. This past year, he would do his best to make it to class every single day. In fact, he would still teach us when a normal person would have taken a sick day. And when his students had a sporting event or recital, he would always find a way to see it. He made it to one of our volleyball state tournament games to watch us play, with an oxygen tank at his side. He truly was an amazing teacher.

Great post Greg. I think we all have our Mr. Harpers. And if we didn't, reading your post has made us reevaluate our teachers and how they worked to construct our lives. People like Mr. Harper (or for me, Fr. Calegari) should be leading this country and have the credentials to do so. But they would rather focus on the future -- our children.

Thank you for your words. I too was touched by Mr. Harper. I was a dirty street kid that Mr. Harper saw something in. My first encounter with him was when he gave me $20.00 for food at youth camp. Then two years later, he gave me a job at TUSD. I was his personal "go-for". I worked for him for nearly two years. He paid for my first semester of college so that I would get my education. He forced me to sing in the choir, as he has many a person, and even though I spent most of my time talking and goofing off with Wes and Jeff, he always made me feel loved.

I spoke with Tommy two days ago. He called me to ask if I would sing at his memorial service. Our conversation was brief and filled with tears and "I love you"'s and even though he could hardly speak he was the same Mr. Harper. Coordinating his last "event" down to the smallest detail of what I should wear. :)

Tommy never gave up on me, he never gave up on all of us. He will forever be remembered through the lives of those he touched. He had a gift for bringing out the best in all of us.

So it is with one final "hand-crushing" hand shake and kiss on the cheek that I say Good-bye Mr. Harper and thank you for loving me.


I have never met a man that even comes close to Tommy Harper. There wasn't an angry bone in his body...and he was never without a smile. He was one of the few teachers in the world who truly understood and cared about a student's development, not just the grade he earned. I remember his unmatched mastery of the english language that never failed to have me walking out of class trying to figure out what he had meant. He had that unique way of saying such mundane things....and a love of watching students learn. That is what I remember most...the delight on his face as he sat in front of the class lecturing on the finer points of proper writing or somehow relating an anecdote that had NOTHING to do with our studies....and somehow having it make sense and tie in. If there's one thing I remember him saying more than anything else it was, as he sat before us in his Shakespeare class comfortable and confident, "Joshua, a paper is like a woman's skirt. It should be long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to be interesting." I still have that written in a notebook somewhere. Mr. Harper was everything a teacher should be and so much more....outside of class he was open to students at all times and even in his deteriorating condition, I read an e-mail from my high school that said he was still inviting students to visit him in his home. There are so few like Mr Tommy Harper and the day he passes on, the world will have lost a man that is too wonderful for words...though most will never know it. I offer you my hand, Mr Haper, one last time as a farewell and a salute in honor of your beautiful life...the few years I knew you. As my gift to you...I will never stop writing, not because I have to, but because you made me enjoy it.


I swear Goodykoontz at The Republic ripped off this article (at least in spirit). He writes of a teacher who recently died, who affected his life, who emailed Bill on a regular basis, etc...

Flip De Luca: R.I.P.


"life is made of stories not atoms" - tommy harper. you will be missed.

zach 03'

Tommy Harper this is from your Detroit friend Sarah. Knowing that God is with you and comforting you. Our music will always
be remembered as I have your tapes you sent
me. I love you and we will meet again.
Love your Detroit Mom Sarah

Tommy has been one of my families closest friends, ever since he led my father to the Lord in 1972. Many of my earliest memories involve him. I think that my favorite Thanksgivings have always been my earliest, which were spent in his home. For some reason I'll never forget the big tuba on the wall. I thank the Lord, regularly for the influence that he has made on my life and on my family. He is a wonderful man whose life exemplified 1 John 4:19. He truly loved, because God first loved him. It was a love that was so amazing it could only have come from God.

Tommy has been one of our best friends and one of the most influential people in our lives (along with his wife Carol). We also fist met Tommy in 1972, when he led my husband Stan to the Lord.

Tommy taught our young married Sunday School class and taught us a lot about marriage, commitment and raising children. He spent hours teaching me how to teach SS as well. I remember going to Catalina and observing Tommy's English classes many times. I learned so much watching a master teacher!

We also spent Thanksgiving at their house every year from 1972 to 1980, and those were some of the best Thanksgivings of our whole lives.

Tommy loves people, never gives up on anyone, stays in touch and always encourages the best in everyone he meets. Tommy also shares Christ every chance he gets.

I think Greg said it best. Soon he will be hearing, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"

We love you so much Tommy! We will miss you, but look toward the end of the race when we will meet again in heaven.

I'm with Mom and Josh, I have known Mr. Harper all my life, and even though we have never lived near him while I have been alive, the times I did see him I knew he loved me! It's like Josh said, his love was that incredible love that comes from Jesus Christ and just flows out to everyone else you know. Mr. Harper helped shape my entire family, and I can't thank God enough for him!
I will miss you Mr. Harper, more than you know! But like Mom, I look forward to seeing you again! I only hope I can touch lives like you have before that time!

I spoke with Tommy Sunday morning and he told me about Greg’s comments. As I read, I was reminded that most of us stand at closed doors complaining instead of going through the open ones to change the world. Tommy is a humble man. He still does not admit that he has and continues to do that. As he has gone through those doors, he has taken us with him.
He does not perceive himself to be a discipler but he always has a host of students seeking him out. He has not let the focus of his efforts be his own success but the success of his students. He has loved us, sacrificed for us and called us to the highest standard.
Mark said of Jesus, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 - The New King James Version, Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998, c1982). Tommy has been the serving hands of Jesus Christ in many people’s lives who can, as a result, say as I said to Tommy recently, “You’re my best friend.”
I thank God for every day of Tommy’s friendship and those that remain. Eternity has changed for me because of the good news of Jesus Christ that Tommy brought to me on a Tuesday night in 1972. I pray that I will faithfully emulate the challenge and example that Tommy Harper has extended to me.

Thank you for writing this heartfelt article about Tommy Harper, Greg. Not only does it remind us of our own personal stories about Tommy, it has given us a chance to say a public thank you to a great teacher, colleague, mentor, neighbor and friend. As we pass on what we have learned from him to others, Mr. Harper will continue to “teach” long after his earthly days have passed – even for generations to come. What a wonderful legacy!

I had the privilege to be in Tommy Harper's choir and, after getting married at Emmanuel Baptist Church in 1985, my new wife and I were in his young married Sunday School class for a few months. I remember being astonished that this very busy man would take the time to invest his life with a group of about 10 young couples. While I know his son, Jeff much better, I have been honored to see Tommy's legacy of wisdom, grace and love as shown in the life of Jeff.

6-12-08 I talked to Mr. Harper this morning. He answered the phone. He sounded great, despite a little coughing. This is a man I have know for 37 years, my age, and he encourages me greatly as he did at Emmanuel Baptist church when I was in the choir.. To say that he is looking death in the face, and laughing, because he knows that he will be in the presence of Jesus Christ in a heartbeat, is just a joy. showlow04@cybertrails.com, if you want to contact me. God bless.

I've cried enough now, Greg. I have a thousand things I could say about Tommy and Carol....they both started impacting my life when I was 9 or 10...they were not yet married. He wove in and out of my life through music and English for both me and my daughter over many, many years. He is the epitome of the walking his faith, not just talking it. His trust in the Lord makes it easier for him to let go of his earthly trappings....an example to the very end. Tommy, your actions here on earth will continue to multiply for ongoing generations through more people than you know. Thank you and Godspeed.

I've cried enough now, Greg. I have a thousand things I could say about Tommy and Carol....they both started impacting my life when I was 9 or 10...they were not yet married. He wove in and out of my life through music and English for both me and my daughter over many, many years. He is the epitome of the walking his faith, not just talking it. His trust in the Lord makes it easier for him to let go of his earthly trappings....an example to the very end. Tommy, your actions here on earth will continue to multiply for ongoing generations through more people than you know. Thank you and Godspeed.

July 5th, 2008 - Mr. Harper passed away at his home. May he forever rest in peace and may his legacy be followed out by all of his former students.

Dear Greg,
I'm also a former student of Tommy Harper, reading the account of your relationship with him brought back many memories of my days with Mr. Harper. Thank you for your article. he taught with the same zest and humor till his retirement.
-p.edwards SCHS 04

Dear Greg,
Thank you for such a wonderful, heartfelt story. I remember Tommy well from Emmanuel and from CHS. I have always remembered some of his sayings and have used them to help my own two children to do better at school and in life. The toilet paper is nice when you need it, has always been my favorite. It is too bad that there have not been more wonderful people like that in the world. So will you someday be the guy at the top. I will shed my tears now.
Thank you. Linda Wilcox Parris


That was such a great tribute. You knew him much better than I, but I was nonetheless very much impressed by his irrepressible spirit and his virtousity on the piano. That man could play! I had the privilige of being in his choir for two years (when churches had good choirs) and also singing with his accompianment on the piano.

He will be missed. His life just shows how much of an impact one person can make in this world.


Mr. Harper was my Freshman English teacher at Catalina High School in 1969; and Modern Rhetoric teacher in 1972. The Class of 1973 so loved Mr. Harper we did a parody of his class remarks and student reactions for our Senior Capers show! All his well-remembered remarks were included for the uninitiated students at Catalina,and for posterity. We all thought he was OURS! He was invited and attended our 20th reunion; unfortunately, I was unable to attend and really regretted not being able to see him. I always wanted him tell him of his impact on me.

In my Freshman English class we slogged Romeo and Juliet; I recall reading the balcony scene with the cutest guy in class: he as Romeo, me as Juliet. To cover my embarressment, I read it monotone, like I didn't care. As class ended Mr. Harper suggested I not pursue a career in the Theater. Except, I was pretty intrigued with theater at that time. When I won a spot in the Advanced Acting class at Cataline for my Sophmore year I went back to Mr. Harper and boasted my accomplishment. He just smiled his sweet smile and cheered me on! I made sure to take Modern Rhetoric when I was a Senior, aced the class, but could never figure out why I did so well. My college English classes were the same. I went on to study Theater at U of A, and the University of Oklahoma repertory company in the summer.
To this day, although I didn't end up pursuing theater as a vocation, I still participate in local and regional theater groups as I have time. And my teenage daughter is now studying Musical Theater! Too bad I never knew Mr. Harper was a pianist, or so strongly involved in his church as I am now. Can you imagine the exponential impact he COULD have had on me?

I really enjoyed reading your post and although deeply saddened to hear of his passing, I am so glad I got to be a tiny part of his truly special universe.

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