10 Country: The 'Po Boy Opery' - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

10 Country: The 'Po Boy Opery'

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July 30, 2002

We hear a lot about tragedy in our world, but little about those who help others. Aid happens quietly far more times than we realize. Especially in Fitzgerald, where Ten Country reporter Joe Courson found people at their best.

Memories of deceased loved ones don't fade very fast, as Ruben Fish knows every time he walks into his living room. "You think about all he good times, the bad. I watched her suffer for years."

His sister Judy Johnson suffered from cancer when she was 48-years- old, and suffered from financial hardships near the end of her life. She got financial help before she died-- $850 when she needed it most, from a group of local musicians dedicated to helping those in need.

"That's why we do it... for the people," said Relief Organizer Aaron Harper. People come to have a night on the town, dance, visit and listen to the music. They call it the 'Poor Boy Opery' because there is no admission charge.

Money from the sale of refreshments-a dollar for two bottles of water-- and raffle tickets pay the building's utilities. They give the rest away, about $2,500 collected in 18 months, to help people get through their serious troubles.

Aaron Harper, the Opery's lead organizer, would seem to need some of that financial help, because he doesn't have any legs. Spinal meningitis paralyzed him from the waist down when he was two years old. A hospital accident more than 50 years ago involving scalding hot water burned his legs beyond repair, causing doctors to amputate them.

But they didn't remove his spirit of independence, and to prove it, he sings "Don't Worry About Me."

"I don't need any help. I'm just like Minnie Pearl, I'm just glad to be here," Harper says. He puts his heart and soul into giving away his musical talents. "I just want to be a legacy for Fitzgerald. Something to be remembered by."

As a person who gave of himself to help people live better lives, long after his music fades away. They welcome singers and musicians to join them at the Po Boy Opery at 218 E. Pine Street in Fitzgerald, every Saturday night at 8:00 until midnight.

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