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Mary Harder

Obituary of Mary Harder

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As daughter, sister, aunt, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, Mary Harder’s life followed a path of formidable challenges and significant joys.


She was born to David and Anna (nee Baergen) Wiens in a rural farmhouse near Sedalia, Alberta on July 28, 1933.


This was during the Depression and the young family moved to Anna’s parents’ farm while David travelled in search of work. A job finally arose in the form of a coal mining operation in East Coulee, close to Drumheller. There Mary spent her early years until the age of eight, roaming the hills of the badlands with siblings, taking care of domestic chores and starting school.


The family moved to Gem, Alberta in 1942. She continued school there, but experienced so much anxiety in her life that she had to interrupt her education at grade seven. She sought solace in Christianity and joined the church in baptism at age 14. She eventually completed grade 11 but then, with her father on the road as a trucker, and her mother unwell, she quit school to help manage farm operations and look after the family which had grown by this time to eight children.


There was a bible school in Gem at the time, and she studied there for two winters. Mary then was able to complete the program in Coaldale.


Even though daily farm operations were managing without her, the family financial situation was still tenuous, so Mary went looking for work to supplement the farm income. She found a housekeeping job at the Calgary General Hospital. In Calgary, she learned about a program where adults could upgrade and complete Grade 12. She began that and worked at a kindergarten to pay for the course but eventually this regime exhausted her, and she returned to Gem to finish Grade 12. This was followed with Teacher’s Training and Mary began teaching in North Gem’s one room school. She was transferred to Standard and then to Bassano where she successfully managed the challenge of an over-enrolled situation for two years.


She then decided to enroll in the Mennonite Brethren Bible College in Winnipeg, where she completed a degree in Christian Education. During her time there, she found support within a community of like-minded peers and in the mentoring of instructors. She felt her vocation in the direction of ministry. The Mission Board assigned a position at the HCJB radio station in Quito, Ecuador. After three semesters of Spanish language training in Costa Rica, she arrived in Quito where she spent five years working in German and Spanish programming. She travelled into the wild reaches of the country, had many adventures and made many friends.


A health scare brought her back to Canada for treatment in 1970. This coincided with cutbacks in mission programming and her Quito position was terminated. She moved in with her retired parents in Three Hills to help them with the challenges of failing health.


In spring of 1971, she met Arley Harder, a recently widowed teacher in Three Hills. A whirlwind romance began that saw them married in July that year. The years that followed were rich in experiences: a ready-made family of three boys, a career teaching in the local school division, an expanding circle of friends and extended families, travel back to Ecuador, camping and fishing, building a new house in Three Hills, grandchildren, and then starting a farm outside of Grimshaw, Alberta. Even in retirement, their adventures continued, with a move to Tumbler Ridge, BC and to a new house in Linden, Alberta, where they first had the joys of great grandchildren.


Arley and Mary both faced many health issues over the years, and these became more acute as they grew older. They managed to maintain their independence and adventurous spirit until very late in the game. After Arley’s death in October 2017, Mary moved to the Prince of Peace Manor. She was always very adaptable and quickly made friends with many residents and staff. She stayed mentally active even while her physical health continued to decline. She had very good care and maintained a cheery outlook in spite of the challenges.


Mary’s world expanded exponentially over the course of her life, geographically, socially, experientially and spiritually. She grew in her Christian faith, hospitality, generosity and compassion. She was skillful and competent in the home, in the classroom, in the church and out in the field. She nurtured many people from children to adults. Many people, even beyond her family, considered her an equivalent to an aunt, parent, grandmother, great grandmother, and elder. She expressed this open heartedness with food, with conversation, with attentiveness, and companionship. Her circle of influence expanded as her world did. She has left a legacy of warmth and kindness and finished her time here with a clear sense of peace, gratitude and joy.


She joins those who have preceded her including her husband Arley, parents David and Anna, sister Anne, brothers John and George, siblings-in-law Irene Wiens, Arnin Dirks, and sons by marriage, Glenn and Brian. Mary is survived by remaining siblings and in-laws Ruth Wiens, Jake Doerksen, David (Elsie) Wiens, Margaret Siemens, Thelma Dirks, Karen (Otto) Pahl, stepson Keith (Marilyn) Harder, daughter-in-law Kathy Harder, grandchildren Ardythe (Ryan), Catherine (Denis), Elliot (Alyssa), Breanne, Charlaine (Justin), great-grandchildren Nyana and Elynn, and many nieces, nephews and friends.


If so desired, donations can be made in Mary’s memory to the Gideons International,

A Memorial Tree was planted for Mary
We are deeply sorry for your loss ~ the staff at Sunset Funeral Service Ltd.