NAPLES — Youth Haven co-founder Bea Harper died in Virginia on Monday, after a long battle with leukemia. She was 86.
Family members confirmed Harper’s death Thursday and said a memorial service would be held in Southwest Florida.
Born in Jacksonville, Harper was a fifth-generation Floridian and was very passionate about her causes, said Harper’s niece Mari-Bea Warnken, 55.
That passion was helping kids.
Harper was the last surviving member of a trio of leading advocates for the children’s shelter that included Collier Circuit Judge Richard Stanley and Naples Star newspaper editor Judy DeTurk.
When Stanley and DeTurk were trying to drum up support for the shelter, they went to the Naples Women’s Club for help. Harper was president.
The East Naples emergency shelter for abused, neglected and abandoned children opened its doors in 1972.
“We were deeply saddened to learn of the passing earlier this week of Mrs. Harper, a woman who single-handedly rallied an entire community together to save and protect the lives of innocent children,” Youth Haven’s CEO Ron McSwiney said in a prepared statement. “Youth Haven was the vision of Mrs. Harper almost forty years ago and would not exist today if not for her tenacious spirit and genuine compassion for children. Thousands of traumatized young children have called Youth Haven their home and been given tremendous opportunities and brighter futures thanks to Mrs. Harper. We will forever remember her as one of the community’s leading child advocates and a true friend to Youth Haven.”
Youth Haven is Collier County’s only emergency shelter for severely traumatized abused, abandoned, and neglected children as well as the sole provider of an array of successful home and community-based parenting education, child abuse and homelessness prevention, crisis intervention, and family support programs.
Harper was also a leading proponent of a children’s services tax that Naples voters rejected in 1992.
She later moved to Melbourne and finally to Haystack, Virginia, to live with her granddaughter Krystal Anne Wilson-Campbell, 33.
A service for Harper is scheduled for 1 p.m. April 17 at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 500 Park Shore Drive, Naples. A reception will follow at 1:30 p.m.
“She left a big mark,” said Wilson-Campbell of her grandmother.
Harper was an early recipient of the Naples Daily News Citizen of the Year Award. She also won the Rotary Club’s Paul Harris Fellowship award in 1992.
Naples Daily News staff writer Eric Staats contributed to this report.
Connect with Elysa Batista at www.naplesnews.com/staff/elysa_batista