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Official Obituary of

Lillian Mae Harper

September 20, 1939 ~ March 14, 2024 (age 84) 84 Years Old

Lillian Harper Obituary

Adored Mother, Grandmother, and Great-Grandmother

Lillian Mae Clark Harper peacefully passed away, embraced by her family, on March 14, 2024, at 11:14pm in her Piscataway, New Jersey residence. She has found eternal peace in the presence of our Lord and Savior.

Lillian entered this world on September 20, 1939, at 357 Delancey Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her parents, James and Victoria Clark, preceded her in death.

In her formative years in Newark, NJ, Lillian displayed traits of being soft-spoken, responsible, and intelligent. She attended McKinley Middle School, where she achieved the honor of valedictorian among her graduating peers.

Lillian and her mother relocated to 28 Riverview Terrace in the "Neck" neighborhood of Newark, where she formed lifelong bonds with her closest friends, Lois Gardner, Vivian Hatcher (Deceased) and Deloris Williams (Deceased). Their friendship endured for over seventy years, as they navigated the journey of raising children together and witnessing their grandchildren blossom into adults.

Throughout her time at Central High School in Newark, Lillian experienced a surge in popularity and became involved in various school clubs, including the Advertising Committee, Cog and Penn Editorial Committee, and the Typing Committee. Her graduation portrait reflects her as sincere and genuine, traits that remained with her until the very end, evident in the multitude of lives she impacted.

Following her high school graduation, Lillian married her soulmate, Robert Grover Harper. From their union, Shawn, Lesly, and Candace were born. Lillian dedicated herself to her family, fostering an environment where her children were encouraged to embrace positive opportunities.

Lillian consistently demonstrated her dedication to social justice and the welfare of marginalized communities. As a Montclair resident, she worked for the Head Start early childhood program. During a period of segregation in the town, she courageously marched for the desegregation of schools her children attended. Additionally, Lillian made a significant impact on the lives of young girls while working as a counselor at Maternal and Infant Care in Newark, New Jersey.

Motivated by her aspiration for career growth, Lillian embarked on a journey of higher education while simultaneously balancing two jobs and the responsibilities of raising her children. She enrolled at Bloomfield College in Bloomfield, New Jersey, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree with a focus on Sociology. Interestingly, her daughter Candace also chose Bloomfield College for her education. Lillian achieved her graduation milestone alongside her elder daughter Lesly, in the same month and year. Continuing her academic pursuits, Lillian went on to pursue advanced studies in social work at New York University.

Following her college graduation and with her children grown, Lillian felt a longing for a new beginning. What initially began as a six-week visit to California to see her sister in 1980, blossomed into a fulfilling and vibrant life spanning thirty-five years in Riverside, California.

At the tender age of six, Lillian experienced salvation and received baptism at Pilgrim Baptist Church in Newark, NJ. Her journey of faith led her to California, where she discovered her church community at Amos Temple Christian Methodist Church (CME). Becoming deeply involved, she actively served as the Women’s Missionary president, traveled alongside her pastor, and lent her voice to the choir, embodying her commitment to her faith.

Lillian discovered her calling in youth advocacy while serving as a Probation Corrections Officer at the Van Horn Detention Center in California. It was there that she formed deep bonds with Loretta Malone and Jimmy Shorters, whom she affectionately considered her bonus daughter and son. They cherished her presence and embraced her as a mother figure in their lives.

Embracing her new life in Riverside, California, Lillian became deeply involved in the community, particularly through her dedication to youth welfare. Woodier Rucker Hughes, (Woodie) the President of the NAACP in Riverside, California, emerged as Lillian's closest confidante and friend. United in their commitment to social justice, they shared a vision for supporting and empowering young individuals. Recognizing Lillian's passion and expertise, she was appointed as the Regional Director of the NAACP ACTSO program, which served as a vital mentorship platform for youth. Lillian tirelessly encouraged young people to strive for excellence across various disciplines. Together with the youth, she traversed the country to participate in NAACP National Conventions, where they showcased their talents and earned numerous gold medals for their outstanding achievements.

Thanks to Lillian's unwavering dedication, she was honored with several awards, including the Champion of Justice, Unsung Hero, and NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award.

Lillian played a pivotal role as a convener and member of the Riverside East Side Think Tank, collaborating closely with the Police Chief, Mayor, and County Commissioners to enhance the well-being of the local community. Additionally, she dedicated her time to serving on the African American Heritage Committee annually, advocating for recognition of the positive contributions made by African Americans within the community.

Despite her vibrant life in California, Lillian remained deeply connected to her New Jersey roots. She made it a priority to return home annually to visit her family and friends. Upon retiring, Lillian decided to return to New Jersey, where she settled in Piscataway with her daughter and son-in-law, Lesly and Leslie (Les) Devereaux, making it her permanent home.

Lillian enthusiastically engaged in activities at the Piscataway Senior Center, particularly relishing her weekly crafts class and lunch outings with a wonderful group of women who quickly became her close friends.

Lillian's life was characterized by the cherished connections she held with her family, particularly her grandsons and granddaughters. She delighted in dining out with Shawn, Robert, and Jaison, enjoying park visits with Isaiah, dancing with Beezy, and sharing laughter with Kaseem. Additionally, her granddaughters Imari Harper Williams and Leslie Brumm, who lived with her in California at different times, shared many precious moments together. Similarly, her son George cherished their weekly phone calls, further strengthening their bond.

Lillian was blessed with wonderful great-grandchildren, including Harper, Carter, Marqui, Zahra, and soon-to-arrive Nolan. She cherished many days spent at the park, delighting in watching Harper ride the swings and enjoying games of Pickleball and tennis together.

Despite her illness, Lillian remained active until its onset. During this time, she found solace and comfort in the unwavering care provided by her daughters, Lesly and Candace. Her final days were spent immersed in online church services, her beloved gospel songs, and moments of prayer and reflection on scripture, all shared with her devoted daughters by her side.

Lillian is preceded in death by her cherished husband Robert Harper (Bobby), beloved son Shawn Deora Harper, as well as her parents, James and Victoria Clark, and her baby sister, Josephine Plunkett.

Lillian is survived by her beloved son, George Hargrove III (Brenda), her devoted daughter Reverend Dr. Lesly Devereaux, Esq. (Les), and her caring daughter Candace Harper (Bobby), who mourn her passing deeply.

Lillian is also survived by eighteen grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, a beloved godson Marquise, along with a multitude of loving nieces, nephews, family members and friends who will dearly miss her.

Lillian's unwavering faith in God remained steadfast, and she completed her journey with resilience and determination. Her longing to reunite with her mother and son was fervent, and we trust that her prayers were answered by God.

She is now free from pain and has been granted her crown of Glory, the eternal gift of life.


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March 22, 2024

9:00 AM to 11:00 AM
St. Paul Baptist Church-Montclair
119 Elm Street
Montclair, NJ 07042

Celebration of Life
March 22, 2024

11:00 AM
St. Paul Baptist Church-Montclair
119 Elm Street
Montclair, NJ 07042


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