COLUMBIA, 11/5/11 (Op-Ed) -- This is a story about how a woman who's nearly 100 years old developed a passion in Columbia, Missouri, carried it with her for the rest of her life, and then donated a large part of it so others could share her love, too.
"I was walking on the Stephens College campus one day and I came to the music building. I went in and came to a practice room, and there was a harp. I'd never seen one before," Stephens alum Helen Rogers told North Dakota's Fargo-Moorhead Forum. "The harp is one of the most ancient of all instruments; it's mentioned many times in the Bible. For me, it was sort of like falling in love."
After taking lessons at Stephens, where she was in school during the 1930's, Rogers went home to visit and told her father she wanted a harp. "'Helen, I'm not sending you to college to play a harp' he told me." But Rogers carried her love of the harp from Stephens back to hometown Fargo anyway. She was a harpist for the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony for 20 years; gave harp lessons; and established music education scholarships.
Now living in Scottsdale, Ariz. Rogers recently donated a large collection of harps and harp-related memorabilia to the Waterford retirement community in her hometown of Fargo. The collection includes harps, harp paintings, plates painted with harps, and miniature harps made of everything from glass to metal.
"I've collected maybe hundreds," said Rogers, who was raised by her father after her mother died when she was an infant. Though Depression-era economics prevented harp lessons, her father did make sure she went to college. After she graduated, she met and married a young medical student in Minnesota.
After the war, Helen and Bob Rogers returned to Fargo, where he became chief surgeon at a local hospital and she became the only harp instructor in town. She also played for events, getting the 75 pound instrument around in her station wagon.
When her husband retired, they moved to Arizona. He died in 2002, leaving Rogers with two children; four grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; and the musical love of her life she met at Stephens College. She doesn't play anymore, but still promotes the harp, attending American Harp Society conferences in California, Prague, and Jerusalem. She gave her own harp to her grand-daughter.
"But she's a doctor and has three boys," Rogers told the Forum. "I wonder why she doesn't have time to play the harp?"