In death, Harold Luper joins a distinguished list of PWS and SLPs who have passed away during the past several years.
I first learned of Dr. Luper through reading of his text, STUTTERING THERAPY FOR CHILDREN. The book was a classic, and would be so today if it were still in print.
My first personal encounter occurred at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point. Hal was invited back as a distinguished alumnus and his task was to reflect upon his student days. Hal had planned to informally chat about the early days, and was not prepared to find a room packed with students and professional SLP's who had traveled all that way to really learn something. What he didn't cover in his informal chat he more than made up for when he met and talked with us later.
I considered applying to Tennessee for my doctorate. I knew that Hal was there and was under the impression that his doctoral program was fully functioning. I wrote to him and received back a most gracious letter in which he explained that the doctoral program was still in the planning stages He encouraged me to wait a few years and reapply later. I was also considering going to Iowa or remaining at Wisconsin. As it turned out, I remained at Wisconsin. During the summer of 1971 I participated in an SFA Institute dealing with Intensive Therapy. Three "master clinicians" and about 15 "less masterful clinicians" worked intensively with three PWS's. Hal was one of several "experts" who visited to critique our clinical work and comment on philosophies and approaches to therapy. More than that, Hal provided a much needed ear and listened, and listened, and listened. I remember how refreshing this was!! Not quick to judge, he listened first. He also found a place where we could go to be introduced to "Blue Grass Music." In 1972 I had the good fortune of editing TO THE STUTTERER. Hal was one of the contributors. One of the experiences I remember vividly was caused by a rather honest misunderstanding. The authors had been given limits regarding how long their chapters could be: as editor, I was given strict instructions to adhere to the predetermined length requirements. The authors complained that they needed more space. Malcolm Fraser, SFA President, agreed to allow longer contributions and so notified the authors --- but he neglected to notify me. The manuscripts kept getting longer and longer. One of the chapters I "over-edited" down to the desired length was Hal Luper's. At the time, I was in Iowa City, working with Dean Williams, and received a most gracious phone call from Hal. He questioned the basis of my overediting. By the time we unraveled the miscommunication we were even better friends, and remained so thereafter.
I wish I had worked more closely with Hal because my examples only scratch the surface. Back in about 1977 I organized an ASHA Convention Panel on "Recovery From Stuttering." Hal was a participant and so again I got to know him. After his formal retirement as Chairperson at Tennessee I contributed a few dollars to a fund set up in his honor. This made me a "member forever" of the alumni mailing list and I started receiving a never-ending number of solicitations for contributions to the annual fund (complete with order forms for Tennessee football tickets). Although Hal said that this was considered a "rite of passage," he got my name deleted from the list.
My wife and I visited Mary and Hal in Knoxville and they visited us in Mobile. He lectured to my stuttering class. When his hearing aid malfunctioned he was pleased that one of our audiologists could fix it. Hal knew that I was born and raised in New England. Earlier, when he learned I was moving to the Gulf Coast, he sent me a card which was short and simple: "never try to fake a Southern Accent, and to remember that you are moving to Cooper Country."
At the 1994 ASHA Convention there was a "Wake" for Charles Van Riper. Several of us made comments, and Hal's was among the more emotional of the tributes. I looked around the room and saw a number of tears flowing as we thought of some leaders who had recently left us: Doc Van, Malcolm Fraser, Dean Williams and also his wife Bette. I was speaking with Hal toward the end of the gathering, and he said he wondered if someday he would join these people in a "fluent heaven."
I don't know if heaven is fluent, but I am sure that heaven has a reserved place of honor for Harold Luper. And, whether fluent or not, I trust that Heaven is void of the struggles of stuttering.
We're going to miss you, Hal.
added with permission, June 18, 1996