Gilbert Dexter Harper, 90, helped to open employment opportunities for many minorities and women is your source for free news and information in the Wilmington area.

Gilbert Dexter Harper
Gilbert Dexter Harper

Gilbert Dexter Harper, dearly loved husband of Judith Godbout Harper, died on Monday, March 14, 2016, at Lower Cape Fear Hospice in Wilmington.

Born in Boston, Mass., on August 1, 1925, Gil was known as ‘Dexter’ to his family and boyhood friends in Fall River, Mass. A World War II veteran, he joined the Navy immediately following his 17th birthday in August 1942 and was honorably discharged in March 1946 at the conclusion of the war. He had been a fire controllman second class, operating the ship’s directories, aiming the guns during combat. He served on the USS Marblehead and USS Improve in five theaters and received five bronze stars. Later in life, he applied for, and happily received, the Navy Good Conduct Medal.

After the war, Gil settled in Willimantic and Chaplin, Conn., with his first wife and four children. He obtained his GED and went on to accomplish much in his life. He served on the Chaplin Board of Education and became a lifetime member of the AMVETS. He was very active in the Democrat party, including serving as chairman of the Democrat Town Committee. His political activity ended when he was employed by the Connecticut Department of Labor Employment Service from 1966 to 1971, during which time he quickly rose from interviewer I to manager II of the Hartford office.

Gil and Judy were married in September, 1971, and lived in Hartford and West Hartford, Conn. In 1971, Gil began his most consequential and satisfying career for 20 years with the U.S. Department of Defense and Labor Office of Federal Contractor Compliance Programs (OFCCP), where he became a supervisor in the Hartford office, conducting and overseeing audits of federal contractors’ employment practices to assure compliance with equal opportunity and affirmative action programs. His effective leadership and guidance of staff, coupled with his excellent negotiation skills, helped to open the doors of employment opportunities for many minorities and women in the region.

He earned and enjoyed a reputation for integrity, commitment and accomplishment in the agency, employer community and among non-profit agencies involved in job-training programs. He noted with pride and appreciation the evolving diversity of faces in the media and workplaces. Following his retirement from the federal government in 1989, he spent six years as a consultant to employers developing and defending affirmative action programs.

While in Connecticut, Gil was a member of the Wampanoag Country Club in West Hartford, Farmington Country Club and the St. James Episcopal Church in West Hartford.

In March 1999, Gil and Judy began their move to St. James, where for several years in good health, Gil enjoyed golf, the ocean beach, boating on the Intracoastal Waterway and the more moderate climate. He joined American Legion Post 543, where he was among fewer than seven World War II veterans.

As the result of family trees created by English cousins, Gil was reunited in 2011 with two half-sisters, from whom he was separated at the age of four. He and Judy visited them and their families in Canada and enjoyed their continuing love and support along with the cousins in England and France who created and maintain the tree.

Gil was preceded in death by a son and his sister, Barbara Baker in Nova Scotia. He is survived by his wife, Judy, whose life he blessed with his love, pride, encouragement and companionship; a son and two daughters; grandchildren and great-grandchildren in Connecticut; his sister, Doris (William) Lane of Whitby, Ontario; two nieces and four nephews of Ontario and Nova Scotia; a special nephew, Sean Godbout of Boston; a special niece, Renee (Timothy) Godbout Gonzales of Raleigh; brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Rick and Donna Godbout of St. James; special cousin, Mary Lou Levine of Apopka, Fla.; and several other cousins.

Special thanks go to home caregivers Patricia Jordan and Dee Summerou for their kindness and care; to the caring staff at Lower Cape Fear Hospice, who provided comfort and peace for Gil’s final journey from this life after several years of physical challenges; and to Lorretta and Allen Pyeatt at Canine Academy, who cared for his canine loves, Meng and Jia Li, for extended stays in these past few months.

In memory of Gil, hum or sing along with such diverse music as Amazing Grace, How Great Thou Art, the Navy Hymn, Danny Boy, My Way, Try a Little Tenderness, and almost any Sinatra ballad; read best seller books; enjoy Maker’s Mark; be politically aware; encourage fair treatment of all; route for UConn Men and Women’s Basketball teams; and enjoy the gifts of nature in your view.

A private burial will be at the National Cemetery on Cape Cod in the future. The Cape was a special love of Gil’s for many years.

Contributions in memory of Gil may be made to the EMS staff at the St. James Fire Department, 3628 St. James Drive, St. James, NC 28461; and to the Lower Cape Fear Hospice, 1414 Physicians Drive, Wilmington, NC 28410.

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