Many pay tribute to High Springs' Sgt. Harper


A table filled with remembrances of Sgt. Chuck Harper, a High Springs Police officer during Harper's funeral service at First Baptist Church of High Spring, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013. Harper, who passed Tuesday from cancer, is recognized as a hero for his crucial involvement in a 2011 shootout with a man at High Springs Community School. (Brad McClenny/Staff photographer)

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 11:24 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 11:24 p.m.

HIGH SPRINGS -- In Jana Harper's eyes, her father was always a hero.

High Springs Police Sgt. Chuck Harper was a man who put others' needs above his own and who was always willing to go out of his way to help anybody who needed it, she said . And after the loss of his wife, Barbie, more than three years ago, he raised Jana as a single parent.

But the events of May 18, 2011 gave those in High Springs who didn't know him a chance to see her father as she did.

"I think everybody got to see what I was privileged to grow up with." Jana said. "My dad really loved his job and he took it seriously. He risked his life to save those students and, you know, he didn't think twice about it - he really didn't."

Between 150 and 200 mourners flowed into First Baptist Church of High Springs for Saturday's funeral for Harper, who was well-known for helping to end the 2011 armed standoff at High Springs Community School.

Harper, 49, died of cancer on Tuesday and was survived by daughter Jana and his two sons, Brian and Chad.

A line of police and fire rescue vehicles with their lights flickering traveled with the funeral procession down Main Street and onto 441 as they headed to the church.

Upon arrival, the honor guard and other officers in full regalia stood at attention while those close to Harper filed into the church.

An instrumental version of "Ava Maria" played to scenes of a flying dove and sunlight shining through moving clouds -- scenes that alternated with images from Harper's life, including many of him with his children as they were growing up.

Among several law officers who spoke was White Springs police officer Berry Raulerson, who had known Harper for 18 years - when Harper had been a tow-truck driver - long before he became a police officer.

Raulerson characterized Harper as man with a jovial personality. He told stories about how Harper, at his own expense, would help those worse off than himself. He also told stories about the pranks Harper would often pull. Even while in the hospital, Harper would play tricks on the nurses, Raulerson said.

"That's the kind of guy Chuck was," he said. "As an officer, whenever I was with him, he was straight up 10-8 (in service). But when he wasn't, he was pretty much Signal 20 (possible mental problem)."

Those in the pews laughed heartily at Raulerson's depiction.

Raulerson said that he was with Harper when he died, which he said was peaceful moment.

"He fell asleep, that's what he did," he said.

Sean Raggins, a Jennings police officer and pastor, led the service and told a story about a young man who told him that Harper helped put him on the straight and narrow. He said that the young man told him that if it weren't Harper, he wouldn't know where his life would be.

"The moral of the story is that what Chuck has put out there has [come] back to him," Raggins said.

High Springs police officer Adam Joy spoke about what kind of person Harper was while on the police force.

"He was always ready to go," he said "He never complained, he never whined, he came to work sick - and he didn't even feel like it - but he kept his hope alive that things will get better."

High Springs Chief Steve Holley, the last to speak, said Harper had a quick wit and was serious about his job. He was an honorable officer who was proud of being the department's first canine officer, Holley said.

Then Holley spoke about the 2011 standoff at High Springs Elementary. He said that Harper was tested on that day in a way few officers ever are, and that when Harper received the call, he knew who he was looking for because he had been on calls involving Robert Allan Nodine before.

"He knew just how volatile Robert could be," he said. "He didn't have back-up from the police department because none was available, but he didn't hesitate - he didn't shirk his duty. He went to the school, [and] he moved toward danger. On that day, Sgt. Charles Harper was the best of us."

Toward the end of the service, a loud beeping followed by the voice of a radio dispatcher could be heard loudly and in unison over the handheld police radios held by officers in attendance. The voice told briefly of Harper's career and requested a moment of silence for all officers. Many in attendance broke out in tears.

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