LEXINGTON TOWNSHIP − Kenneth R. Harper is a humble man, not the brass band type.
The 80-year-old veteran couldn’t escape the spotlight on Saturday when he received a special quilt and parade for his 27 years of military service.
“I know there are people more worthy than me. I will accept it with grace,” Harper said.
Harper’s wife, Nita, added, “I’m proud of him.”
To which, Harper said, “I pretty much honor my wife and (my family). My wife put up with me all those times while I was in the National Guard.”
Harper repaired aircraft between the US Navy and Ohio Army National Guard for nearly 30 years. He also taught special education for the same duration.
“I was lucky to be in the military,” Harper said.
‘No two heroes are alike.’
In recognition of her service, Harper received a Quilt of Honors quilt. The Patriot Guard Riders Honoring Our True Heroes mission also held a parade.
Canton’s Melissa Seibert, a longtime military attorney representing all groups involved in Harper’s ceremony, said she wanted veterans to know they weren’t forgotten.
“Your service still means something today,” she said.
She added that the quilt is made locally and personalized for the individual. “No two quilts are the same because no two heroes are the same,” she explained.
‘I learned a lot.’
Harper, a native of Sterling, Illinois, grew up in Arizona and joined the Navy at 18.
He served three years from July 1960 to August 1963, and finished with the rank of ADR3, second aeronautical machinist.
“I was an aircraft mechanic,” he said.
Harper then moved to Akron, where he met his wife and graduated from the University of Akron. “We met at church,” Harper said. “We have been married for 54 years.”
He taught at Waynedale High School for three years, then moved to Stark County. He taught at Alliance schools from 1978 until his retirement in 2002.
Meanwhile, Harper joined the Ohio National Guard in September 1982 and spent 20 years repairing helicopters. He attained the rank of sergeant first class.
He left the military, for good, in 2002, earning a multitude of ribbons and medals.
“I learned a lot of leadership and communication skills,” Harper said, and those skills helped him in the classroom. “Especially with staff and parents.”
Harper and his wife have three children – Karyn Harper, Kevin Harper and Kelly Frasher – and six grandchildren. Kevin followed his father into the military, retiring as a sergeant.
“It’s a proud moment for the family.”
Frasher started the process with Seibert. They met at the Stark County Fair in August.
Frasher described his father as a person full of patriotic pride, with all military branches represented with flags on his lawn. Many summer vacations were spent at the barracks.
“It’s just exciting to see him honored,” she said. “It’s a proud moment for the family and for him.”
Told her dad was modest, Frasher said she wasn’t surprised. “He doesn’t want to be the center of attention. He’s just proud to be a veteran.”
Contact Benjamin Duer at 330-580-8567 or [email protected] Follow on Twitter @bduerREP.
Follow on Twitter @bduerREP