Eugene “Gene” Walter Harper, Jr. passed peacefully in his sleep on Sunday, April 3, 2022. Gene had strong Catholic faith, deep unconditional love for his family, and many lifelong friendships. We, his family, adored him and are thankful for his life.
Gene was born on September 9, 1944, in New York, NY (the third of five generations born in Manhattan) to Muriel Agnes (neé Drumgoole) and Eugene Walter Harper, Sr. Gene grew up in Washington Heights and spent his last three years of high school in Boston, Washington DC, and Maryland respectively. He graduated from Fordham College, spent his junior year studying in Paris, served in the US Army Reserves, and earned his law degree from the University of Virginia. Gene met his wife of over 52 years, Joanne Esposito Harper, during college and married her on June 7, 1969.
Gene made international news in 1964 when he protested the Beatles concert at Carnegie Hall. It was a prank but continues to be taken seriously in Beatles lore. What was not in jest was his march on Washington in 1963 to witness Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Gene began his legal career at Webster & Sheffield, took a hiatus to teach law at Fordham University School of Law and Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, and then returned to Webster & Sheffield as a partner where he spent the majority of his career. Later he joined Mudge Rose, then Haythe & Curley, and retired from Squire Patton Boggs. Driven by his passion for teaching law and philosophy he returned to Fordham as an adjunct professor in the twilight of his career and founded the Fordham University Natural Law Colloquium. He served as a trustee of the NY Grand Opera Company, the Citizens Budget Commission, the Lincoln Center Theatre Company, and the Marymount School of New York. Gene concentrated his practice in the areas of public, project, infrastructure, and municipal finance. His Jesuit education ignited not only his passion for learning and teaching, but also for promoting education for all. He served as an adjunct Fellow of the Center for Educational Innovation-Public Education Association (CEI-PEA), NY’s leading think tank for Charter Schools, and worked on the NY State Charter School Act. During the 1980’s he and his wife (also an attorney) served as co-presidents of the PTA of their children’s elementary school, P.S. 6-Manhattan and of the P.S.6 non-profit fundraising arm, Project 785, for nearly a decade.
Gene was a devoted supporter of his children providing invaluable assistance in their academic endeavors. In fact, he displayed their degrees in lieu of his own, quipping that getting four children through school was a grander feat. Gene had a sharp wit and was a feverish reader, amassing thousands of books with a particular fondness for history and philosophy. His eyesight waned in later years but his passion for reading did not, so he devoured audiobooks. He enjoyed lengthy phone conversations, eager to share a joke, expound his intellectual take on the topics of the day, and learn the latest from everyone’s lives. As an old soul who never grasped the internet, this kept him intimately familiar with friends and family far and wide. Gene was never a big drinker but grew an interest in mixology late in life, which often made these conversations quite hilarious.
Gene was preceded in death by his parents, his brothers Lawrence, Robert, Thomas and William. Gene is survived by his wife, his daughters Elizabeth “Betsy” of Los Angeles, Virginia “Ginger” of New York, NY (her husband, Tomas Foulger and their children Siena and Francesca), Katherine “Katie” of New York, NY, and son Joseph “Joe” of New York, NY (his husband Mark Stephanz and their children Hannah, Elizabeth and Grant). He is also survived by his brothers James, Gerard and Daniel and sister Mary.
Visitation will be held on Thursday, April 7, 2022 at Pelham Funeral Home from 4-8pm. A funeral service will be held at St. Catherine’s Roman Catholic Church in Pelham on Friday, April 8, 2022 at 10am. Gene was a proud supporter of the Wounded Warrior Project should you want to make a charitable donation in lieu of flowers.