Ever since Vince Harper was a child he strove to pay attention to others and always managed to leave a good impression among his friends and family.
It was a constant message delivered Thursday afternoon at a life-celebration ceremony for the beloved non-profit worker, who died last month at the age of 55.
Over 200 people attended the event, which was held at the Finley Community Center in Santa Rosa. Speakers shared stories about a man who went out of his way to help others and advocate for economic and social equality.
âVince was a very modest person. He just stayed in his lane and did his thing. But its impact has been huge, âsaid Rodney Rice, a childhood friend who attended Atwater High School with Harper. âI look around this room and see how important he was and I was amazed at how much of a hero this young man has become. “
Harper has spent the past three decades working for the Sonoma County Community Action Partnership and most recently was its Director of Community Engagement.
After his death, community members and officials remembered him as an advocate for economic and social justice and stability for low-income families.
That sentiment was echoed on Thursday, as speakers remembered Harper as a friend, advocate, mentor and father figure who often pushed community members to find their strengths and to improve.
âHe was a true community hero,â said Susan Cooper, Executive Director of Community Action Partnership.
Participants flocked to the community center throughout the nearly four-hour event. Halfway through the program, the large room where the service was held was almost full.
Photos of Harper were shown to attendees at Thursday’s ceremony.
A short distance from the pictures was a collection of books. Above them were signs that read, âVince was passionate about reading and learning. One of her latest gifts to the community is sharing her book collection.
The ceremony program listed 17 community organizations with which Harper was involved, including several associated with the Community Action Partnership. Among the 17 agencies were CAP’s Youth Civic Engagement Project, the Roseland Community Building Initiative, and the Santa Rosa Community Advisory Board.
Several speakers said Harper instilled confidence in them, showed them that they were not alone and that they still felt important.
Often, speakers have said that his efforts were best reflected not only in the size of the crowd who attended Thursday’s service, but also in the general well-being of his community.
Emil Harper told attendees that his brother “always tries to comfort others.”
“He wasn’t expecting much and he went out of his way to not offend anyone,” said Emil Harper.
You can reach editor Colin Atagi at [email protected] On Twitter @colin_atagi