The 2011 El Dorado Rose

By From page B1 | June 20, 2011



Mary Ann Harper blossoms

Mary Ann Harper, 68, of Shingle Springs was named 2011 El Dorado Rose last Thursday night. In astonished tears, she accepted the sash from 2010 El Dorado Rose, Mary Kay Brancheau, 67, a fellow graduate of El Dorado High School. Brancheau was a year behind Harper in school, and now Harper follows Brancheau in Rosedom.

Harper seems to bring extra enthusiasm to the title, seemingly a complete Rose who has been a vibrant, warm and productive blossom throughout her life. Her rosy personality, so full of charm and verve, would only seem to lack thorns.

But that works out well for Harper because it is said that her husband, Harry Harper is her thorn.

It is a good-hearted joke and common knowledge that the inimitable, retired United States Forest Service engineer is apparently unique, irascible and loveable.

Everyone loves him, especially Mary Ann. After all, they’ve been married for 51 years, and their marriage actually took place right at the Shingle Springs Community Center in 1960, where her Rose reception was recently held.

Mary Ann was nominated to become the El Dorado Rose by the Shingle Springs Community Center. Both she and Harry have been staunch supporters of the community center amid myriad other activities.

Over the years, they have helped to keep it a viable community resource and are looking forward to the community center’s 60th Jubilee on July 23. They are working hard to make the jubilee a stellar, fun family event.

Rose petals

When Dan MacPherson, president of the Shingle Springs Community Center presented Mary Ann as their nominee, he extolled her virtues. Everyone laughed when he quipped that Mary Ann would be the perfect El Dorado Rose, and that she should be crowned just by virtue of having the patience to put up with Harry.

MacPherson deserved a medal, too, for keeping Mary Ann’s introduction brief and amusing. To list all her accomplishments would take all day, and the aroma of ample, delicious food was wafting from the kitchen.

“Harry is truly my thorn,” Mary Ann confirmed as the crowd laughed. “But truly, I have been so humbled. It was such an honor to be nominated for El Dorado Rose. I didn’t think I was old enough. I have always admired the Roses and the Ladies of the Court since Lulu Frazer was selected in 1976. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would be considered for this honor.”

Actually, Mary Ann has been asked to run before. But she really was too busy. She just retired a few years ago. While she was a secretary at Silva Valley School until 2006, she moonlighted for several years at Gold Harvest Market. Yet she still managed to volunteer and to help her community in numerous ways.

Typical of Mary Ann’s good nature, she accepted the nomination to bolster the Rose Pageant and the Shingle Springs Community Center.

Her candidacy upholds the community center’s visibility in the community, and participation in the Rose Pageant celebrates El Dorado County’s heritage and splendor.

Mary Ann has lived in the county since 1951 and is a true champion of El Dorado County.

Native roots

Mary Ann’s grandfather, Dr. Ralph Harris, was a major stockholder in the Timm Gold Mines in Kelsey. Mary Ann is a fifth generation Californian who was born in Los Angeles in 1942. She graduated from Buckeye Elementary School in 1955, from El Dorado High School in 1959, and has completed upper division course work at California State University, Sacramento and University of California, Davis.

Her volunteer service started while she was a student at Buckeye School, where Mary Ann served refreshments at the Buckeye whist card party fundraisers.

“She hasn’t stopped since,” her résumé notes. Besides participating in many bake sales over the years, Mary Ann worked on the Buckeye Sesquicentennial Committee in 2008-2009 and worked on the committee to design and install a kindergarten playground at Buckeye School, as well as serving as chairman for the Buckeye School District blood drives from 1992-2006.

True to Mary Ann’s pioneer roots, she and her sponsors decided to have an old-fashioned family picnic for her reception in May with fried chicken, potato salad, watermelon, egg salad sandwiches, deviled eggs and of course, all the requisite cakes, pies and cookies. The atmosphere at the Shingle Springs Community Center was charged with merriment and fun, a testament to Mary Ann’s gracious ways.

In spite of the gloomy weather, the hall was crowded with friends and well-wishers, many of whom brought dishes to the potluck.

Rosy glow

“Thank you all for your support and for coming in spite of the hail,” said Mary Ann. Even without the anticipated sunshine, the Shingle Springs Community Center glowed with rosy radiance.

Former Roses, Ladies of the Court and Golden Roses added to the atmosphere

Sandy Kowalski, who became a member of the Rose Court in 2010, looked beautiful in a yellow outfit enhanced by white eyelet. She almost changed her costume, but looked rosy as her outfit and demeanor reflected what she said to herself when dressing: “It’s Spring.”

Kathy Walters, who also became a Lady of the Court in 2010, was simply dressed in a white blouse and an authentic Navy blue walking skirt.

All the Roses and court ladies looked dazzling, including Juanita Grimm, 95, who was selected as Golden Rose in 1989. Dressed in blue and white with a matching bonnet, her presence after all these years speaks of the specialness and friendships the Rose program engenders.


The presence of so many Roses and people really highlighted Mary Ann’s popularity and charisma.

She was proud to show off the new bathroom floor in the Shingle Springs Community Center. Mary Ann has been working with the center in various capacities for umpteen years and is now the membership chairman for the center and had membership applications available at her reception.

A native daughter

In attendance, too, was Mary Ann’s daughter, Dana, 42, and two grandsons. Dana was like a mother hen (apples don’t fall far from the tree), helping to decorate the hall and assisting her mother in dressing for the reception. It was extremely evident that much love flows from mother to daughter and vice versa.

Mary Ann also has son, Todd, 44, who lives in the Seattle area with his wife and daughter.

She and Harry also have hosted a Japanese exchange student back in 1978. She has volunteered at the Placerville Preschool from 1970-1975, and was one of the Placerville CASA advocate team sworn in by Judge Riley in 1992. Since 2008, she has served weekly on the School Attendance Review Board (SARB) and she volunteers weekly in classrooms at Blue Oak School. She also is a board member of the Ponderosa High School FFA Boosters Club.

Mary Ann worked in the Buckeye Union School District for some 32 years, with the last 12 being a secretary at Silva Valley School.

To follow through on Mary Ann’s “thorn” assertion, Dana made her father a thorn corsage to wear to the Rose Ball. There were no blossoms. There didn’t need to be, for Mary Ann in her exquisite dress and warm smile provided all the colorful bloom needed.

Amiable thorns

Like Tom Pettibone, husband of 2009 El Dorado Rose Roni Pettibone, Harry had some concerns about dressing up as his Rose candidate’s escort. Harry is a blue jeans kind of guy. However, he rose to the occasion and looked distinguished and dapper at the Rose Ball, replete with top hat, bolo tie and the thorn boutonniere.

Mary Ann has also been a part of the El Dorado County 4-H program since she was a child. She has served as a 4-H project leader, co-community club leader, county-wide project leader and was a member of the county 4-H council from 1972-1986.

“At all times, Mary Ann helps others, be it family, friends or community. Her integrity and kindness to others exceeds expectations. We believe you will find through this recommendation that Mary Ann Harper is a very special lady,” wrote the members of the Shingle Springs Community Center on her nomination form.

What it doesn’t mention is Mary Ann’s exacting compulsivity, which perhaps is her own personal thorn to bear. Whether it is paperwork, cooking or organizing, Mary Ann wants everything to be perfect.

After working hard for so many years, Mary Ann still works hard, doing all the things she always wanted to do, including becoming part of the Rose Court.

Historical Rose roots

When Mary Ann moved to El Dorado County, where her parents purchased some 79 acres in Shingle Springs, Mother Lode Drive was Highway 50. As a child, Mary Ann would hear cow bells and run down the driveway to close the gate. The cows were driven from Latrobe through Shingle Springs and up to Placerville.

“You know, the work was a lot harder then. But somehow it was easier,” Mary Ann mused.

“I admire the lovely roses for all they have done to better their community,” Mary Ann said. “What a wonderful opportunity to be associated with ladies who are as lovely on the inside as they are on the outside.”

Each El Dorado Rose seems honored and surprised at the appellation, despite all the hard work and the lifetime commitment it takes to qualify to become El Dorado County’s premier ambassadress. Mary Ann is the 2011 El Dorado Rose and a Lady of the Court for the rest of her life. That’s in addition to being a natural rose rooted in her family and her community.

Harry proudly accepts the title of “El Dorado County Thorn.”

E-mail: [email protected]

Susana Carey Wey

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