The life of Longshoreman, musician and poet Harry Stamper was celebrated at the ILWU Local 12 hall in Coos Bay, Oregon on March 17. Stamper passed away on March 9 at the age of 67.
The celebration featured musicians and poets who shared some of Stamper’s prolific work, including the song “We Just Come to Work Here, We Don’t Come to Die,” recognized by the Smithsonian Institution as a part of American labor and folk music history. His song, “Harry Bridges,” celebrated the life of the ILWU founder and was performed by Stamper at Bridges’ memorial held at Local 10 in San Francisco.
In the 1980’s, Stamper performed at Pete Seeger’s Clearwater Revival Folk Festival in New York with Arlo Guthrie and Sweet Honey in the Rock.
Stamper began playing music at the age of 13 and made the Bay Area his home in the early 1970’s, writing frequently about union, environmental, and political issues. No topic was off-limits. The last song he recorded was titled, “God, Guns and Gays.” He also wrote songs, stories and a book for his grandchildren, Kevin, Stephen and Jack, that made them laugh, dance and sing.
Working as a longshoreman for more than 30 years, he was a proud member of ILWU Local 12 and wrote many short stories about life on the docks in Coos Bay.
His wife Holly, and daughters, Nell and Anna recalled him as a devoted and loving husband, father, grandfather and best friend. He was cheerful and kind to all and many people were inspired by his open heart and warm smile.
“My idea is to create something useful, fun and just as relevant down the road,” said Stamper when asked to reflect on his life’s work.
Stamper’s family asked for contributions, in lieu of flowers, to benefit the ILWU Auxiliary #1 or the Waterfall Clinic, both North Bend, Oregon.