Impact Summer Reading: In memory of Nick, who loved to read

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Nicholas Harper was a well-rounded 13-year-old.

Played football. Made good grades. Went to church. Read his “Harry Potter” book whenever he could, even in social studies class.

Everything seemed fine when Nick came home from school on Friday, Jan. 13, 2006, mother Ruth Harper says. Nick had played basketball at school, and he spent a normal evening with his family, she says.

But Nick went to bed earlier than usual, Ruth noticed, and she told the other children to turn down the TV.

“He said, ‘No, Mom, I’m not sleeping.’

“Those were the last words he spoke to me.”

The next morning, Nick was gone. He had gotten up some time in the night. His family found his body on the floor.

An autopsy concluded Nick died of acute myocarditis — a sudden, silent killer.

Nick had a cold the week before his death, his mother says, and a doctor told her the virus must have attacked his heart.

NIck’s death was such a loss.

“It would’ve just crushed our family,” Ruth says, “but we have our faith.”

And they have good memories. So Ruth and Timothy Harper made a $100 donation to the Impact Summer Reading Fund in memory of Nick, and directed it to his school, North Rowan Middle School.

“He was a really great kid,” Ruth says.

After his death, she went to clean out his locker at school. Students soon surrounded her, she says, telling her how smart and well-liked Nick was, and that he had no enemies. At a time when students separated into cliques, often by race, Nick was accepted by all.

“He just surpassed all those lines,” says Ruth.

And though he was a jokester, teachers liked him as much as students did, she learned. The school yearbook was dedicated in his memory that year.

Nick was the oldest of the Harpers’ four children, born when they lived in Texas. Ruth remembers the days when all four were under the age of 6.

They moved to Rowan County 16 years ago. Timothy works for Schwan’s Foods; Ruth worked nine years as an interpreter for the school system.

Nick started reading to his youngest brother and sister to help.

Ruth says she took the children to the public library each week and let them load up their canvas duffels with 14 books each. Every night, they read for at least 30 minutes before going to bed.

Nick set a good example. He won the President’s Award for Education Excellence with a 97 average, his mother recalls proudly. He always, always loved to read.

“He was real responsible,” Ruth says. “Even though he was 13, he seemed like 21.”

Nick would be 22 today. Ruth talks about him with love and enthusiasm, not sorrow.

“The Bible says God has a time and a place for every single person — and that was his time.”

Here’s the latest on the Summer Impact Reading Fund, which is raising funds for books middle and high school students took home Tuesday to read over the summer. The cost we need to cover is $76,000, and the fund has raised about $30,000 so far.

Many, many thanks to all who have contributed. If you would like to make a donation, instructions are below.

Previous total … $29,326.44

For North Rowan Middle School, in memory of Nick Harper, from Timothy & Ruth Harper … $100

Godley’s Garden Center … $150

Susan T. Sember … $50

Robert L. Cook Jr. … $100

Raymond & Catherine Coltrain … $100

Susan & Tommie Waller … $100

Earnhardt Investment Co., Harold C. Earnhardt … $100

For North Rowan Middle School, from Tony & Beverly Jordan … $50

For Knox Middle School, in memory of Jean Wilkins, from Arthur & Sandra Hunt … $50

For North Rowan Middle and North Rowan High schools, from Marianne & Archie Jarrell …$100

Anonymous … $50

Beth Meadows … $25

Brenda Raney … $25


Today’s total … $30,326.44


How to give

• To the middle or high school of the donor’s choice. Checks should be made out to the school, with “Impact Summer Reading” in the memo line.

By check, payable to the Rowan-Salisbury School System, with “Impact Summer Reading” in the memo line. You may designate the funds for a particular school; tributes and memorials are welcome. Mail to Rowan-Salisbury Schools, Attn: Tara Trexler, P.O. Box 2349, Salisbury, NC 28145-2349 or drop off at one of the school administrative sites.

• By credit card online at Note that credit card companies take approximately a 3 percent fee out of each transaction.

• By transfer, for those who make their donations through Foundations for the Carolinas; please call Meg Dees at 704-224-8840.