March 14, 1931 – February 1, 2020
Wende Chrisman Harper passed away peacefully in her sleep in the middle of the night on February 1st with her devoted husband Richard Harper by her side, at Waveny Care Center in New Canaan. For the past five months that she was in bed, she was surrounded by long-time neighborhood friends, loved ones and relatives who all called and came to share stories, and hold her hand. She gained spirit and strength from all of them. We remember her as a lover of the woods, of education, of all the news that is fit to print, of talking on the phone and of chocolate. Her primary love was for her husband, her children, her grandchildren and her great granddaughter.
Wende was born on March 14, 1931 in Worcester, MA. After elementary school her parents moved to Phoenix, Arizona, where she finished high school. She graduated from Stanford University and then received a Masters in Arts in Teaching from Harvard University. Prior to the beginning of her teaching career she served for a year in a rural area of Costa Rica with the American Friends Service Committee. After returning to the U.S. she taught elementary school in Lexington, MA. She met her future husband, Richard, that year and they married in 1957.
After the birth of her four children, Wende was a devoted mother who instilled in her children an appreciation for family and the desire to help others. She spent her professional life teaching English as a Second Language in the Stamford elementary school system welcoming waves of immigrants from all parts of the world. It gave her great joy to learn cultural traditions from the children she taught. She was invested in them flourishing at home, in school, and beyond. Not only did she teach her students but she guided whole families as they adjusted to life in a new country. Among the many children who touched her were Ann Tu, Yetnel Francois-Fils, and Ross Bertrand, with whom she stayed close through their adulthood.
The environment had been a significant concern for Wende since her days at Stanford where she was active in the Alpine Club, and she attended reunions up until last year. She was a member of the the Connecticut chapter of the Sierra Club for over three decades, during which time she served as a board member and secretary. She loved to spend time in nature, especially among the trees at her Wilderness Community home in Vermont. The family spent winters skiing from the cabin and summers swimming in Lake Ninevah, where Wende often swam across the lake and back as a form of relaxation.
Wende was deeply loyal and caring, and lived a grace-filled life, nurturing children, friendships and family. She held a special place in her heart for her brother, nieces and nephews, cousins, neighbors, and friends, and always stood by in times of need. She is survived by her husband of sixty-three years, Richard C. Harper of Stamford, Connecticut, her children, their spouses, their children and their children’s children: Adrienne and Dave Magida of Middlesex, Vermont; Kyle, Kristi and Rebecca Magida, Lindsay Magida and Paul Outland, Roger and Heather Harper of New Canaan, Connecticut and their children Reed, Ryan and Patrick Harper, Cynthia Harper of San Francisco, California and her children Corinne and Camilla Sigmund, Sharon Harper and Dan DeGooyer of Somerville, Massachusetts and their daughter Adriana DeGooyer and her brought-into-the-fold “daughter” Pirjo Vaivio of Helsinki, Finland. She is also survived by the many children she taught, whose milestones and triumphs she encouraged, followed, and nurtured.
A memorial service will be held later in March at the North Stamford Community Church. Leo P. Gallagher and Son Funeral Home is handling arrangements. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to Building One Community, an organization that supports immigrants in the Stamford, Connecticut area, or to the Sierra Club.