James Edward Harding

JAMES EDWARD HARDING

1941-1990

SON OF WILLIAM JOHN HARDING AND JENNIE V. JOHNSON

James Edward Harding was born the 19 October 1941 in Lethbridge, Alberta.  He was the son of William John (Bill) and Jennie V Johnson Harding.  He was the fourth child in a family of seven children.

From very young age Jim was aware of the needs of those around him.  When he was only 2 years old and his mother was expecting David she was very ill.   Jim would lay beside his mother for hours just quietly so as not to disturb her.   Every once in a while he would say to her.   “Is anything I can do for you mommy?”

When Jim was 3 years old he got a bad case of flu and became quite sick.  When his mother attempted to take his temperature Jim bit the end of the thermometer off.   Jennie was frantic thinking he had swallowed it and the mercury inside, which could have been fatal.   But when they found the end of the thermometer on the floor under the crib with the mercury they were relieved and that was when Bill said, “Well, Jim’s fever is up but his temperature just went down.”

Jim grew up on his father’s farm about four miles south of Taber.  He was always a good natured child right from infancy.  He would do everything he could to gain the love and approval of his family.  Generally it would take a lot of teasing from his brothers to annoy him.   But when he became annoyed he had a scowl that was distinctly Jim’s alone.   He could push his lower lip all the way up to his nose completely hiding his upper lip.   It became David’s and Glenn’s self appointed task to get Jim to scowl at least once a day.

Jim was quite a tease and he could take it as well as give it.   He had a fun loving nature and was also an excellent singer.  During his school years he won first place in a school competition.   He went to Lethbridge to compete and came in second there.

Jim’s growing up years were hard.   His family was poor and never had access to the finer things of life.   Jim was a little different too.   He was tall, awkward and gangly and so he got teased a lot by the kids at school and especially on the school bus.  Jim developed the quietness of his Father and was often found sitting back in the shadows, content to observe.

Jim was baptized February 12, 1950, in the Taber Stake.

When Jim was young he loved to day dream.  When he was about 4 years old he was hospitalized for pneumonia.   He clung to his mother not wanting her to leave.    That night his Mother didn’t sleep much as she worried about her son in the hospital.   Early the next morning Jennie went to see Jim expecting to see a very sick little boy crying his heart out from abandonment and rejection.   When she entered the hospital she went right to his room but he wasn’t there.   Fearful she went back into the hallway.  Then somewhere in the maze of rooms and hallways she could hear little feet galloping and a child’s voice hollering, “Hi Yo Silver and AWAY.”    Yes it was Jim.   He didn’t just dream of the old west, he lived it.

As Jim got a little older sometimes as he played outside he would pretend to be in a fist fight just like in the old west movies.   It was amazing to watch him shadow boxing the air and then suddenly his unseen foe would land a blow and Jim would stagger backwards.  Then his enemy would land another and Jim would go flying.   He would shake his head and jump to his feet and the battle would continue.   Jim had a wonderful imagination.   His love for the old west never left him.   His home is filled with novels and books of that era.   While he was young he would love to go through the catalog and make lists of the things he would need to live alone in the wilderness.   That was his dream.

As he was growing up, Jim learned to work hard on his Father’s farm.  He knew what hard work was, along with his brother’s and sisters.  He was obedient and tried hard to do what was expected of him.  Having been born during the war years there was little or no money.   He knew what it was like to have nothing, not even a pair of shoes.   He was introduced to hard back breaking work at a very tender age.   He milked cows every morning with the rest of his siblings before school and again in the evenings.   He was introduced to the beet and corn fields and those endless rows of hoeing and thinning.   Jim had a particular dislike for the beet field and it was there he was nick-named “Jimmy James Edward Hoe Handle Harding.”    Probably because every time anyone turned around Jim was leaning on his hoe handle.   He knew what it was to drive a tractor at a very young age.  At 10 years old he drove a tractor all night long and into the next day in a blinding snow storm to help pull the beet harvester through in a frantic effort to get the crops out before winter set in.   He knew what it felt like to be speared in the back of the hand by the prong of a beet knife as he reached for the same beet someone else was after with the beet knife.   All his siblings grew up with scars on the backs of their hands from beet knives.   Jim learned at a tender age what it’s like to get up at all hours of the night or day to move those ever present hand move sprinkler pipes.   Bill liked to move them every 4 hours and of course he took his sons with him.   Mornings were never Jim’s favorite time of the day and many times he was observed move a whole line of pipes at 4:00 in the morning in his sleep.   Jim knew what it was like to pick a 40 foot pipe up full of water weighing more than he did, drain it and carry it over his head through corn that was 6 or 7 feet tall.   He knew what it was like to pitch hay by hand in 100ºF weather.   He was familiar with the dust and back breaking work of shoveling grain by hand in and out of granaries.

Jim took his schooling in Taber.  He wasn’t particularly an ‘A’ grade student.  He liked to dream. “Jim had a romance with the old west.” His great dream was that he could live in the wilderness, alone.  When he was older he pursued his dream of living in the wilderness and had an experience that proved that living in the wilderness was not as romantic as it seemed in his dreams.  He discovered that a man can starve to death or die of exposure in those harsh conditions. Even with that experience Jim never outgrew his love for the old west.  “That wilderness idea never left Jim because he read the Wild West paper backs all his life and he dressed and groomed himself to look like Grizzly Adams and probably bathed even less!”  None the less Jim was a gentle man and totally honest, the two most outstanding qualities of his father.

Jim had some close calls with death early in his life.  He was run over by a grain drill when he had been riding on the back of the tractor and fell off.  It’s a miracle he wasn’t crushed to death when that happened as grain drills are heavy. He was nearly killed when he rolled a tractor over in the ditch that had a foot of water in the bottom of it.  He was only about 10 or 11 years old and was driving the tractor home by himself from the dry farm.  Glenn was in the big truck with Bill and they were staying close to Jim to make sure he was OK.  Shortly after they had passed him and were waiting for Jim to catch up, Glenn glanced in the rear view mirror and saw the 4 wheels of the tractor sticking up out of the ditch with a huge cloud of steam.  They couldn’t see Jim anywhere.  Bill leaped out of the truck and raced back to the overturned tractor as hard as he could run.  Just as Bill and Glenn got to the accident scene, Jim came crawling up the bank on the far side of the ditch.  Relief was immense when they saw that he was alright. Another time Jim nearly had his head knocked off when he looked through a pipe that someone was pushing another smaller pipe through and it hit him just above his left eye leaving a deep gash and a permanent scar.   Yes, Jim is the product of this kind of simple down to earth country life.

Jim loved puzzles.  He had several jig saw puzzles that he’d put together so many times that he had the pieces all memorized.   He would start a new puzzle and he’d say, “This piece goes about here, and this one goes over here” and in about half an hour he had the whole puzzle put together.   Later on he would get bored with that so he would turn all the pieces of the puzzles upside down and put them together that way.   That would get boring so he would mix all the pieces of three or four puzzles together and figured out how to put them together out of that.   Jim got hooked on cross word puzzles at a pretty young age too and he got really good at them.  Jim used to have breakfast or lunch with a friend all the time in one of the restaurants in Lethbridge.   Jim would get the Lethbridge Herald and while they sat at lunch visiting, Jim would open the paper to the cross word puzzle page and in the course of 10 or 15 minutes Jim would complete that puzzle, all the while carrying on an intelligent conversation with his friend and the waitresses.

Jim loved his family and he loved the Church and was preparing to go on a mission when he was 19 years old.   It was at this time that Jim had a bitter experience that turned him against the Church forever.   He was preparing for his mission by working on the Bishops farm to earn enough money to enter the mission field.   He worked hard all summer long driving tractor and pitching hay and doing the chores night and morning.   Jim would get up early in the mornings and work till late at night before returning home to bed.   He put in 14 to 16 hour days for about 4 months.   When it came time to settle up, the Bishop came to him and said, “Jim, I’m going to pay you what I think you are worth.”   And with that he wrote out a check for $25.00, handed it to Jim and turned and left.   At first Jim thought it was just a joke.   $25.00 wouldn’t have covered even one days wages.   The Bishop wasn’t joking and Jim was deeply hurt.   Jim never went on that mission and eventually went inactive and left the church.

Jim moved away and his family did not see him again for several years.   He was working in Prince George, British Columbia working for Slade and Steward Company.   He loved this job and stayed with it for many years; he was successful and made a lot of money.  While there he had a serious accident that left him unemployed for several months and he nearly died of starvation, but he never once mentioned his problems to his family.   One day his mom had a really powerful impression that he needed help.   She and Dad heeded that impression and went to Prince George and found Jim in need of help.   They nursed him back to health and he soon got work again.

Jim was never selfish with anything he had, he made a lot of money, but he never had much because he gave it all away!  Jim only ever had a few simple possessions.   He lived in an old house in Raymond, drove an old Ford truck, a fairly nice car to get himself to work and back and a good set of tools and outside of that he had nothing because he simply gave it all away. He helped his family through hard times.  He tried to surprise them with the things he brought, always planning to better their lives and lighten their burdens.  He helped Brenda so much of her life and was so good to her children and they loved him.  He was good and charitable to everyone it seems. Most of all Jim loved to help out anyone.   He would tip the waitresses unbelievably and never accepted anything in return.   Any chance he could get to show off his family he would.

In the late 1960’s, Blaine & Martha, Glenn and Loyia and Jim’s parents were all farming together.   For three consecutive years they had experienced crop failure.   For nearly a year they received Church welfare assistance as they had nothing to live on.   One day Jim came home from B.C. to the farm.   When he learned of their struggles, he never said a word but as soon as he could he excused himself and said there was something he needed to do in town.   When he returned his car was filled with hundreds of dollars worth of groceries for his parents, Blaine & Martha and Glenn and Loyia.  Later in the week Jim returned and went through his mother and dad’s house, opened every cupboard door and searched through every pantry and storage room and made a mental note of the things that needed to be there.   He again went to town and returned and stocked his parent’s shelves to overflowing.   Jim never went back to his job in B.C. but found work in Lethbridge with Gilmar and Crane Services so he could be near his family and help them when they needed it.   About once a week for a whole year Jim would come home to visit, and while there he would just quietly go through the house and take stock of what was missing and then he’d go to town and come back with what was needed.

Blaine’s car needed a new battery and often wouldn’t start.   One day Blaine heard a noise outside and went out to investigate.   He found Jim putting a new battery in his car.   When Blaine protested, Jim said, “It’s OK Blaine because this battery was just sitting around at my place and I’ll probably never use it anyway.”   Blaine said, “I don’t even know how Jim found out that my car needed a new battery.”

After Joan was married and had two or three children, she came home to work in the sugar beet thinning for a couple of days to make a little extra money.   She was working on the long, lonely rows on the dry farm.   Jim came out and worked right along beside her on the days she was there.   When she received her pay, she realized that Jim had given her the rows he had done as well.

Jim found ways to help Brenda too.  He often purchased groceries as well as other things like their first computer.   He purchased the computer and brought it to Brenda’s saying that he would not use it very much so instead of it collecting dust at his house he would rather have it where it could be used.  It was interesting to note that he did spend many late nights at Brenda’s all by himself playing games until 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning.

Jim stayed with David and Gail for a while and often would show up with food saying that he had a friend who worked in a warehouse and had giving Jim boxes of surplus canned food.   He would tell them that he had some extra and was trying to get rid of it and could they use it?   Then, he might say, “Well it will help with my room and board when I stay so many weekends.”   Jim and David shared many an hour visiting.

It seems that Jim never spent his change as he had piles of it in drawers and cans and more cans and more drawers, in   boxes and who knows where else.   He would have his nieces come over to clean, and all of the change, and then dry it.   When his apartment was clean they would go down to the bank and carry it to the teller in exchange for paper money.   Next they would go to the video store and he would rent a whole bunch of videos.  Then they went to the store and bought lots of bags of chips, pop and candy.   Returning home they would surprise everyone with all the stuff.   Jim would then sit back and observe while they were watching and eating.

Jim lived alone all his life, because he never married, but he took care of many families. At the time of his passing there were at least 3 families that Jim helped out anonymously. These families never knew who the kind man was that had blessed them.

Jim was a wonderful man and his family often wondered why he never married.  He didn’t like a lot of attention brought to himself he seldom spoke of romantic entanglements but he did confide one day in his sister, Brenda, that he had had a girlfriend who broke his heart so badly that he never felt a desire to date again.  Jim was very content building up his family and friends instead.

Jim was a very intelligent man.  He developed a wonderful vocabulary and a brilliant mind and could hold his own in any debate or conversation.   When Jim visited Glenn, the two of them would often debate with and tease each other.  Jim was always able to deflect Glenn’s comments like he was brushing flies away and come right back with comments and teasing of his own that were so brilliant Glenn was speechless!   Loyia would laugh and laugh and say, “He got you there Glenn.”

Jim loved to restore old cars.   He had several in his back yard.   He would fix them up and get them running and then give them away or sell them for next to nothing.  Just prior to his death, Jim gave his car to a family that was in need.   Jim just showed up with the car one day and said to him, “I’m thinking of buying another car and if you can use this car, it’s yours.   I have no use for it anymore.”   This was a very generous act as there was no proof that Jim had planned on buying a new car.

Jim a most highly valued employee at Gilmore Crane Service.   He did the work of 3 men.  He would come in sometimes hours before work started and he would stay many hours after work.   He would come in on weekends or holidays or on his days off and do work that needed to be done and seemed happy to do it.   Jim had the run of the company and knew what needed to be done and went and did it before anyone could talk to him.   All of the really dirty jobs that no one else wanted to do, Jim would just go and do them.   He was voted employee of the year about 5 years prior to his death and received a nice plaque and gold watch.  Jim had been nominated employee of the year for the past 5 years but that he refused to accept it and told his boss to give it to somebody else.   He said, “Jim cannot be replaced and we don’t know what we are going to do around here without him.”

Jim hated attention.   He never spoke about any of the small and simple yet great things that he did.   If any one did mention something Jim had done, he stopped it right now.   He would say, “Bah – Humbug” and the subject would get changed.

Jim passed away unexpectedly in his home, late November 10, 1990, which was his Father’s birthday.  He was a wonderful son and brother and a super uncle.  Despite all the hurt that he received in his life he was able to rise above it, set it aside and teach amazing lessons about caring, lessons of unselfishness, lessons of kindness, hope, and lessons of giving that parallel the Saviors great examples.  Jim certainly did things for people out of love.   Charity, or the pure love of Christ is the most important attribute of Christ we must have.   And Peter said, “for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4: 8

View the Memorial Card Here

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