Art Creative 01

Mary Arlene (Stafford) Harper

October 22, 1928 ~ November 29, 2021 (age 93)


Mary Arlene (Stafford) Harper of Mansfield Center, CT died on November 29, 2021 at the age of 93. She was predeceased by her beloved husband and soul mate of 67 years, Walter L. Harper. Mary was born in Bridgeport, CT in October 1928.  She was predeceased by her parents, George L. and Marion (Bumbera) Stafford; her sister, Dorothy Dickinson; and two half-brothers, Milo and Burt Worthing. She is survived by her sister, Charlotte Taylor; daughters, Beth Strathy (John), Marianne Metcalfe (predeceased by Brigham), Kathryn Pitney (Robert), and Jamie Harper (Jacqui); and sons Walter Harper (Theresa) and John Harper (Laura).  She is also survived by her 13 grandchildren, Damian Larkins, Trevor Larkins (Alexandria), Sharon Harper, Laureen Harper, Lindsey Metcalfe, Heather Metcalfe, Veronica Harper, Gregory Rabus (Jennifer), Matthew Rabus, Patrick Rabus, Michael Kingston, Tessa Kingston and Rachel Smolskis; along with 5 great grandchildren, Hannah Rabus, Miles Rabus, Alexander Rabus, Ian Rabus and Makenna Larkins.

Mary graduated from Bassick High School in Bridgeport, and Eastern Connecticut State University with a bachelor’s degree in Middle School Education and from the University of Hartford with a Master’s Degree in Art Education. She held a variety of art teaching positions in Bolton Middle School, Bolton High School and the Longley School at Mansfield State Training School where she worked with developmentally challenged middle school children to assess brain development through art. She also taught an interdisciplinary puppetry course for students in the University of Hartford’s Music and Art Schools.

Mary was a talented artist. She received two Connecticut Commission of the Arts Grants and held a patent for the Jiffy Stage, a stage for shadow puppets for use in elementary classrooms. In addition, she shared her artistic gifts as Camp Historian at The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, CT from 1988 until 2010. At the end of her tenure, the camp personnel and the campers held a “Mary Harper Day Parade” throughout the campground and a celebration luncheon on the lake dock. Her whole family attended that festive day in her honor.

The greatest gift our mom gave us was the ability to think. She never told us to color within the lines, in fact, she encouraged us to create our own. Mom showed us how to think outside of the box and to be tenacious when pursuing a goal. When she decided on a goal, she would pursue it until it became a reality. She envisioned a home on Browns Rd. in Storrs and scouted out the most beautiful farmland on the road; only, it was not for sale. That didn’t stop her; once she had a vision, she would make sure it happened. Sure enough, after much persuasion, the owner sold, and our parents built our family home. Later she envisioned a pond in the woods and purchased more acreage from the landowner and had a pond created using the natural springs and a brook on the land. We all spent many idyllic days at the pond, swimming, skating, picnicking and even camping!

She also made sure that her children had cultural opportunities to attend art shows and concerts at UCONN and made sure we had opportunities to take music lessons and attend summer camp every year.  She supported us as Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and/or 4-H members.

Some of our favorite memories are the beach days spent at Misquamicut in Rhode Island with our parents. We still have no idea how they packed the six kids and their friends into a three-bedroom cottage every summer. In addition, we made weekly journeys to the beach, arriving at 9 AM in the Ford Station Wagon with a cooler packed with sandwiches and drinks.

Mom was as smart as a whip and had a great sense of humor. Her intellect and humor were strong until the end and so was her determination to live, even while ALS took her ability to speak and continued making its advances. She gave it a good fight and we are so proud of her.

We would like to thank Terry and Bruce Robertson, her neighbors, for watching out for Mom when we couldn’t be there, her hospice nurses from Hospice Care Mansfield (Lori, Holly, Sharon and Sara), her social worker (Karen), her pastor (Ivan), her caregivers from Companions & Homemakers (Susan, Keishmarie, Christine and Jeanise), and Jamie and Jacqui Harper for moving in with Mom so she could stay in her beloved home until the end. 

Mary’s services will be private. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions to The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, CT. For an online memorial guestbook, please visit

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