By Dorothy Evans
When Lila Harper was told she had been chosen Grand Marshall of the fiddle contest parade, she was stunned. “Why me? I don’t do anything” she asked. The answer is obvious to anyone who knows her. Lila is a born and bred Weiser treasure.
Lila Harper has lived in Weiser her entire life. “My world has been small, but happy” she said as a smile lit her face. After graduating from Weiser High, she started working at the Signal American and climbed the ladder to Circulation Manager. In the early 60’s, she was a secretary for the Idaho Municipal League and later with her husband Chuck, owned Pioneer Market (now Pioneer Express) as well as Chuck’s Freezer Meats, a mobile butchering operation, next to the market. Eventually she became a stay-at-home mom, raising her three children.
Lila and Chuck both had beautiful singing voices and performed popular music and show tunes at benefit dinners and conventions. “In those days, there was always entertainment at functions,” Lila remembered. As an accomplished pianist, Lila recorded their background music. Around 1965, Lila and Chuck started entertaining at the National Old Time Fiddlers Contest. Back then the contest was held in a band shell in Memorial Park and their music teacher, Mrs. Binning, accompanied them on the piano. They performed there for about five years, until the contest format changed.
Even though she no longer performed, Lila continued to be actively involved in the NOTFC. For many years she tabulated scores in the judges’ room and helped in the Lions Club concession stand. She also volunteered to cook huge pots of baked beans for dinner at the Veterans’ Hall (now the Weiser Little Theater) for the musicians. In the recent past, as a member of COPS Lila assisted visitors while patrolling the park and high school during contest week.
“I’ve always liked to keep busy,” she mused. “It enriches your life when you volunteer and you get to meet a lot of nice people.”
And volunteering she did. In fact, volunteering and the name Lila Harper are synonymous. For 60 years (from age 24 to age 84), Lila worked the polls at each and every election. She began in the counting room and eventually became precinct judge. For 56 years, Lila volunteered at every quarterly blood drive held in Weiser. Starting as a typist, she later became the blood drive coordinator with Lyla Roberts. Lila’s not one to just show up – she takes charge.
In 2007, Lila was a founding member of COPS and currently holds the position of secretary/treasurer. Along with other COPS members, she helps prepare and serve the Weiser community Christmas dinner and has done so every year since 2009. She has also been president of the Friends of the Hospital and was in the Ladies Auxiliary of the Lions Club.
Although volunteering was a fulfilling part of Lila’s life, it’s obvious her family is what is most important to her. She and her now late husband Chuck were married for 39 wonderful years. Her three children, Mike Ryan, Tim Ryan and Jan Adams, as well as her five grandchildren, are the loves of her life. She wants them all to share in her happiness on parade day.
It's easy to see why Lila Harper is considered one of Weiser’s grande dames. She is caring, gracious and humble – a perfect pick for Grand Marshall. As she put it, “It was very unexpected, but I was honored. I was flabbergasted.” She then added with a chuckle, “Whoa, what a hoot!”