Mike Harper retired in 2005 after a 33-year career as a repairman with Xerox Corp. in Louisville. He is the current president of the Louisville Dulcimer Society and has been a member of the group for 14 years. In addition to his music, he has a slew of other interests that keep him active in retirement.
What is your music superpower?
I play the banjo and the guitar. I joined the Dulcimer Society because I wanted to have people to play music with. The group plays instruments that don’t plug-in — all folk instruments including harmonica, the accordion, and the gut bucket or washtub bass.
What drives you now?
Having a project going makes a tremendous difference. I might let a couple of days pass between projects, but then I’m right back into something else.
One of my hobbies is woodworking/carpentry. I have a full woodworking workshop. I have built cabinets and bookcases and did some of the work on our house when we remodeled.
I have an interest in genealogy. I took a course at Bellarmine in 1976 and have been knee-deep in researching family history since then. My family has a strong local history. All my ancestors were in the Louisville area by 1850 and in Louisville by 1890.
I graduated from Flaget High School and I write interviews with former students and teachers twice a year for its newsletter.
What is a skill every man should have?
Parenting skills. Develop a good relationship with your children.
How did you first come to music?
My first interest was in the guitar. I can’t read music and I never took guitar lessons. I don’t really have talent, but I do have persistence. Later I took banjo lessons and play it as a folk instrument.
What was your plan for yourself?
I wanted to be an electrical engineer, but I wasn’t good enough at math so I chose to major in business. In the Navy, I was an electronics aviation technician.
What advice would you give to the younger you?
Start retirement savings as early as possible.
National sports announcers who are entertainers, not reporters. During the game they spend more time talking about other things or telling some unrelated sports story and are not paying attention to the game. The best sports announcers are the ones you don’t know are there.
A childhood memory?
As a kid I had a crystal radio set with earphones and listened to two local stations — WLKO for music and another station that broadcast the University of Louisville basketball games and the Louisville Colonel baseball games. Later, I got a ham radio receiver and could listen to stations all over the country.
Can’t quite get the knack of…
After I retired, my wife wanted me to do the cooking, but after a few trial runs she decided that was not going to work out for the best.
How long did it take you to get used to retirement?
No time at all. Not long after I retired, I was asked to come back part time and I declined. I had no intention of going back to work.
What changes would you like to see in Louisville?
A cable car that runs from the Kentucky Science Center over the river to the Falls of the Ohio State Park.
I have some of my great-grandfather’s tools. I have a hammer with his name on it and his straight razor. I also have two pots from the 1850s that came from Melcher & Co. pottery in Louisville. The pots were used to store food. They were the Tupperware of the day.
Best advice you ever received?
There are two ways to learn that the stove is hot — if you touch it or if someone tells you. They both work, but one is less painful.
By Lucy M. Pritchett | Illustration Dan Kisner