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Mahin and Paul Harper: A Seattle Central Love Story

Mahin Bahandori immigrated to the U.S. from Iran in 1973. She stayed on the East Coast in states like New York and Vermont until she moved to Seattle in the summer of 1975. That same year, she started attending Seattle Central College, and it was during that summer quarter she met Rory ‘Paul” Harper, her classmate and future husband. 

Harper, a student veteran at Seattle Central, had returned from service in Vietnam earlier that year.

They both attended the same English 102 class and were responsible for writing the essays for the final exam. Harper was immediately drawn to Bahandori’s beauty and saw the project as an opportunity to talk to her. They would go on study dates at places like Seward Park, where they would help each other with assignments and spend quality time together. “At the beginning, he was nice, compassionate, and charming, and I enjoyed being with him,” Bahandori recalled. 

Their relationship didn’t come with notable obstacles; however, Bahandori had to endure numerous instances of racism for dating an African American. They were often given poor service at restaurants or judged by others when they were out in public. 

This prejudice was felt on both sides, with Bahandori stating, “At the community college, I was beaten in the bathroom by a group of Black girls who were angry that I was with him. And I had to ask Paul to come to stay by the restroom every time I needed to go because I knew that some women were waiting to pull my hair and beat me.” This happened during her time at Seattle Central. 

Bahandori lived with a White family in Queen Anne who was against her having any people of color over at their house. “One afternoon, when they saw Paul appear at the door, they were shocked, and they told me one day that no color walks through this neighborhood.” 

Despite challenges, they continued seeing each other, and a year later, Harper proposed to Bahandori at a Smokey Robinson concert. They both transferred to the University of Washington, where Bahandori majored in mechanical engineering and Harper majored in criminal justice.

They moved into an apartment together on 14th and Union in Capitol Hill, where Bahandori worked as a housekeeper, and Harper worked part-time for the Coast Guard.

She later worked as an accountant at the Commissary Naval Station at Sand Point and as a secretary at the Todd Naval Shipyard.

Angelo Harper | The Seattle Collegian Mahin and Paul Harper circa 1989

In 1983, Bahandori and Harper moved into their first house on Broadview, where they raised three daughters. In 1988, they moved into another house in Shoreline, where Bahandori still resides.

Harper found a job at Boeing as an engineer until he left the company in 1995 for medical reasons. Bahandori was hired as a civilian contractor for the Department of Defense until she retired in 1994 and opened a daycare the following year.

After Harper passed away in 2014, Bahandori decided to fully retire and permanently close her daycare while pursuing her medical assistant degree. She spends her free time tending to her garden, attending church, and watching Turkish dramas. 


Angelo Harper

Angelo Harper is a first year student at Seattle Central College perusing his AA degree for Journalism. Born in Seattle and raised in Shoreline, He wrote for his high school newspaper for two years before graduating and on the side he likes to write rhymes and perform under the stage name “Lil Fax Machine” where he has collaborated with local artists from the Seattle area on several tracks and a few music videos.

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