Rita Harper, 89, painter, private-school art teacher

February 23, 2005

Rita Harper, a painter and retired private-school art teacher, died of an apparent heart attack Feb. 15 at the Broadmead retirement community in Cockeysville, where she had lived for the past nine years. The former Monkton resident was 89.

She was born Erato Tranoupoulou in Constantinople, now Istanbul, Turkey. She changed her name to Rita as a teenager. "She wanted to be a modern woman," said son Andrew Harper of Monkton.

She earned a bachelor of arts degree at the French College in Constantinople and moved the United States in the 1930s when her family was forced to leave because of Turkish political unrest. After earning a master's degree from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass., she moved to Athens, Greece.

While vacationing in Venice, Italy, she met her future husband, Ralph M. Harper, an Episcopal priest, theologian, philosopher and Johns Hopkins University professor widely credited for introducing the study of existentialism to North America. They married in 1940.

The Harpers lived in Cambridge, Mass., where he taught at Harvard University, and later in Red Hook, N.Y., before settling in Monkton in 1959.

He became rector of St. James Episcopal Church and headmaster of its school, where Mrs. Harper taught art through the 1970s. Her husband died in 1996.

"She was a self-taught artist," her son said. "She had a tremendous output - small oil paintings with an emphasis on the light of the Aegean Sea."

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. March 6 at Broadmead, 13801 York Road.

Survivors also include another son, David A. Harper of Canberra, Australia; a sister, Adela Malkotsis of Ottawa; and four grandchildren.

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