Niagara Gazette

Columns

September 14, 2013

LETTERS FROM THE ISLAND: Remembering the Island's Billie Jean

Niagara Gazette — Dear Mainland Alumni — Billie Jean Harper. If that doesn’t sound like country, we don’t know Ramblin’ Lou. And prepared to leave her viewing last week, having shaken every familiar hand and hugged every known shoulder, a lad of maybe 14 seized Polly’s arm.

“Thank you for coming,” he said at the doorway, growing into adulthood before our very eyes, a total stranger to us up to this moment, bestowing his blessing on us for having come to pay tribute to his grandmother. We didn’t catch his name, but in welcoming us newcomers he evoked Billie Jean Harper herself.

Hall monitor, she was. Have you EVER heard anything nice said about a high school hall monitor? Aren’t they the butts of jokes from Archie Andrews to Bart Simpson? And yet Billie Jean Harper, who countenanced no sass, was as beloved at Grand Island High as any star athlete or academic over-achiever. She merited a full four minutes on Channel 2 News, and Doug can tell you from experience that not even captains of industry get four minutes on a local newscast when there’s no “supporting video” as they call it.

(Doug once worked with a guy who declined to air a story about the collapse of the Thruway near Utica: “Who cares about some downstate rural road when we’ve got no pictures?”)

Sorry for the digression. Doug’s still working off some grudges. Not so, evidently, for Billie Jean Harper, ambassador without portfolio to 34 years of student bodies. Slight of build, uplifting of voice, she was as likely to say how nice you looked as to hurry you off to class. We heard from people all over the country, and so did Mary Friona, who fashioned that marvelous piece for Ch. 2, surely evoking a tear from even folks who couldn’t find Grand Island on Mapquest.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Columns
  • NIA Tom T mug TOM'S CORNER: Spring tune up and summer prep for your car The Gazette has partnered with local automotive expert Tom Torbjornsen to publish his weekly national column. Tom's Corner will appear in Thursday's editions.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • NIA Glynn, Don mug GLYNN: New York still delays decision on hydrofracking Many people across the state remain puzzled why the decision to allow hydrofracking has been delayed for so long.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • NIA Bradberry, Bill mug BRADBERRY: To every thing there is a season; this is OURS I'm not sure what The Byrds had in mind way back in 1965 when they popularized Pete Seeger's 1950s rendition of Ecclesiastes 3, but I am inclined to agree with novelist Thomas Wolfe who wrote: "[O]f all I have ever seen or learned, that book seems to me the noblest, the wisest, and the most powerful expression of man's life upon this earth."

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • NIA Confer, Bob Mug CONFER: Property rights and the Clean Water Act The United States of America was founded on the premise of natural rights, succinctly dictated as the unalienable rights of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • NIA Higgs, Norma mug HIGGS: St. Peter's Episcopal Church, inside and out When I had a couple of questions I checked in with Whitney Mallam, a long-time church member who introduced me to Solon Myron Napoleon Whitney (commonly known as "The Major"), one of his relatives from the early days of this church's history. I was intrigued by some of Whit's comments and hope to learn more about him in the future.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • NIA Glynn, Don mug GLYNN: Seneca Niagara Casino in billionaire category One of the Niagara area's biggest businesses is now part of the billionaire class.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • SINGER: Bridging the ideological gap Being both liberal and conservative, as currently designated, makes one perhaps sound wishy-washy; but one can't go down the line on everything.

    April 20, 2014

  • NIA Smith, Doug and Polly LETTERS FROM THE ISLAND: Home alone on the Island Yeah, you know who I mean. Hard to start this project without you but deadline looms and you're still bein' Nana, the role you were born to play. I know, I know, if you'd known grandchildren were this much fun, you'd have had them first.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • NIA Hamilton, Ken mug HAMILTON: The Bills stadium and the proverbs We are what we are because of the way that we think, and we got the nothingness that have as a result of it.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • NIA DeLuca, Michele mug DELUCA: Say it ain't so, Joe I had just parked my car in front of the Gazette offices on Niagara Street last week Thursday when a man approached me and stood by my door.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads
House Ads
AP Video
US Proposes Pay-for-priority Internet Standards Wife Mourns Chicago Doctor Killed in Afghanistan FDA Proposes Regulations on E-cigarettes Kerry Warns Russia of Expensive New Sanctions Mideast Peace Talks Stall on Hamas Deal Cody Walker Remembers His Late Brother Paul Grieving South Korea Puts Up Yellow Ribbons Raw: Kerry Brings His Dog to Work Raw: Girls Survive Car Crash Into Their Bedroom Three U.S. Doctors Killed by Afghan Security Yankees' Pineda Suspended 10 Games for Pine Tar Colleagues Mourn Death of Doctors in Afghanistan Ukraine Launches Operation Against Insurgents Obama Reassures Japan on China Raw: Car Crashes Into San Antonio Pool Time Magazine Announces Top Influencers List Raw: Angry Relatives Confront SKorea Officials Bigger Riders Means Bigger Horses Out West Yankees Pineda Ejected for Pine Tar Deadly Fungus Killing Bats, Spreading in US
Opinion
House Ads
Night & Day
Twitter News
Follow us on twitter
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Front page