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Harper honored for community service

Moni Harper

Although she has been deeply involved in numerous non-profit, governmental and service groups over the years, Moni Harper of Fairmont probably is best known as the bugler who plays “Taps” at funerals of local military veterans.

It is a combination of her civic involvement that has resulted in Harper being named the recipient of the 2019 Fairmont Exchange Club Book of Golden Deeds Award. The annual award recognizes citizens whose self-sacrifice, response to duty and other praiseworthy actions may pass unnoticed or unremembered by the general public.

Harper will be honored at a banquet at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Holiday Inn. Tickets are $19 and are available through Friday at Profinium Financial of Fairmont, Dee’s Floral, United Methodist Church and the Fairmont Area Chamber of Commerce. For more information, call Don Richards at (507) 236-3161.

Harper was surprised and humbled when she was notified of the award, and is quick to name others she feels are more worthy. She even misinterpreted the notification of the award.

“I thought they were asking me to join the Exchange Club,” she said.

Harper retired in September from MRCI where she helped disabled and disadvantaged individuals find meaningful employment and social recreation opportunities. She worked at MRCI for 22 years, retiring as branch manager.

A native of Ceylon, Harper attended Mankato State University for a year, then worked for the Sentinel, REM and Minnesota Valley Action Council. She returned to MSU, earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1990.

For more than two decades, Harper also volunteered her musical talent as bugler for the Martin County military honor guard, comprised of members of the Fairmont VFW and American Legion posts.

“It’s hard to say, but I’m guessing I’ve done about 800 funerals,” she said. “I’ve been doing it for almost 22 years, and we do anywhere from 30 to 40 funerals a year. There was one April where I had nine funerals in the month.”

She credits her supervisors at MRCI with allowing her to participate in the funerals whenever she was needed.

The haunting melody of “Taps” generates emotions in many people, and Harper is no exception, especially when she is called upon to play at the funeral of a friend like Bob Stewart and Veryl Champine, two veterans who had led the Honor Guard.

It was Stewart who first recruited Harper to be the Honor Guard’s bugler, and she grabbed the opportunity as a way to honor her older brother, Staff Sgt. Timothy V. Harper, who was killed in Vietnam in 1971.

In spite of the sadness surrounding her musical display, Harper still has anecdotes about her mission.

Fairmont’s iconic football coach, the late Tom Mahoney, frequently requested that Harper play “Taps” for his funeral from the Fairmont High School football field that bears his name.

“I always told him that the sound wouldn’t carry to Calvary Cemetery,” she said.

Harper’s list of current and past involvement is lengthy and diverse. She has served as speech judge at Fairmont High School for more than 20 years and as assistant speech coach at Martin County West High School for more than two years. She is a member of Ceylon American Legion Auxiliary Post 529 and the Fairmont United Methodist Church.

She is past member and chair of CREST, past board member and chair of the Martin County Area Foundation, past board member and chair of the Fairmont Area Chamber of Commerce and past board member of Martin County Transit. She has served on other boards and committees including the Fairmont Planning and Zoning Commission, Interlaken Heritage Days committee, the Fairmont Opera House, Martin County Special Olympics, the Southern Minnesota Educational Campus and the Girl Scouts Peacepipe Council.

She is a 1997 Blandin Community Leadership graduate, member of Fairmont Women of today, former member of Business and Professional Women and recipient of their “Young Careerist” award.

She has been a member of the Interagency Committee, the Adult Protection Team, the broadband committee, Project 1590 and the Profinium Bank Advisory Board.

Harper has shared her talents with musical and theater groups including the Town and Country Players, Fairmont Civic Summer Theatre, BARC Band and the Martin County Brass.

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