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Purchase Poet, Dorothy Nell Harper, dies at 102
Dorothy Nell Harper, poet, passed away Monday, June 17, 2019 at the age of 102.

Dorothy Nell Harper passed from this world to the next at her home on Harper Road yesterday. In her 102 years of life, she touched many of us with her wit, her charm and her kindness. She was a wife, a mother, grandmother, great grandmother and toward the end of her life, a great-great grandmother.

In 2009, I published her poem "Thankful" in the West Kentucky Journal, the online publication that would see her mentioned often. She was one of my first friends and mentors when I moved to Hickman County.

..."We recall the things we're thankful for
Family, church and friends.
I'm even thankful for my cat
And a list that never ends.

For if I tried to name them all,
This poem would go on and on.
I would soon run out of paper
And my spelling might be wrong!

Besides, Jesus knows my limit
And I have my stopping place.
I will just say "Lord, I'm thankful"
There. I state my case."

I valued her friendship and admired her talent. In the introduction to the poem, I said this of her: "Dorothy Nell has been a farm wife, a mother, grandmother, baker of fudge, feeder of hummingbirds, collector of glass paperweights. She's also one of the finest people it is my honor to call friend."

Of all those roles, for me, she was a poet. Her poetry was a simple and straightforward as the life she lived. Dorothy Nell wrote her first poem at age 7 for school. Even after many years, she could recite it (and it was a long one!).

Her serious writing began at age 84. Other members of the Clinton's Women's Club encouraged her to share her poetry. In a bold step for an octogenarian, she self published her first book. From then on, she kept writing and publishing her books. From the beginning of the Arts Council, she had a table at the Hickman County Arts, Crafts & Book Fair. She sold her books and chances on her fudge to support the work of the organization of which she was a founding member. Arts Council honors Dorothy Nell Harper

She always knew what poem made me laugh. I dearly loved to hear her read "Me" from her first book "Stepping Stones"

"Here I stand at 84

Leaning on my cane

Don't be fooled by how I look

I really have a brain..."

She took her poetry into schools around the Purchase, sharing her talent with children and delighting them with her rhymes. Rural children understood well the images of family and farm life that formed so much of her work. In "A Thank You Note" she wrote

"Lord, I thank you for this gift

You know the one I mean

The one that helps me tell the world

The pleasure that I glean.

From sharing my thoughts with others

In rhythm and in rhyme

In words that I can life with

As I strive for "peace of mind"

From "For Love of Poetry, today and always"

She fostered poetry by hosting poetry readings at the cabin close to her home. Surrounded by hunting trophies, she would peer through a magnifying glass to read her work, then sit quietly as others shared theirs.

Dorothy Nell funded and oversaw a poetry contest for Hickman County students. Her only rule was the poetry had to rhyme. The winner the first year was Sarah Gardner. 95 year old poet supports rising poets with contest

Sheri Roberts presents Jackson Purchase plaque to Dorothy Nell HarperNamed Poet Laureate of the Jackson Purchase by the Arts Council in April 2011, Dorothy Nell Harper was honored by her community for her work. The Arts Council nominated her for Kentucky Poet Laureate, an application supported by many local officials and supporters.

Shown at right, Dorothy Nell Harper receives a plaque from Sheri Roberts, retired teacher and published poet.

This past Sunday, the Cokesbury Singers presented an old hymn which I am sure Dorothy Nell Harper knew and could play.. The final verse was written with her in mind:


"And when my work on earth is done,

And my new work in heav'ns begun,

May I forget the crown I've won,

While thinking still of - Others."

I have no doubt that my friend Dorothy Nell Harper has won her crown. I have even less doubt that she is thinking still of others.


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