Harder, John Norman (1910-1985)

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John and Mary Harder, early 1980s.
Family photo provided by Edith van Dongen

John Harder: teacher, businessman and lay leader; was born 4 February 1910 in the Mennonite village of Pordenau, South Russia, the sixth of eight children of Abram Heinrich Harder Harder (8 August 1879-8 September 1973) and Anna G. Nickel Harder (30 October 1879-1 February 1956). Abram H. Harder was a teacher and preacher. John married Mary Isaac (11 November 1911-25 July 1948) on 18 August 1935 and Mary Tiessen (8 November 1913-25 July 2006) on 29 July 1950. John had three daughters with his first wife (Edith, Arlene, Aldora), and two sons (John and Peter) with Mary Tiessen. John Harder died on 21 December 1985 and was buried in the community cemetery in Vineland, Ontario, Canada.

John Harder immigrated to Canada with his parents and siblings in 1924, settling in Arnaud, Manitoba. John helped establish the family farm, then began grade nine at 19 years of age at Mennonite Collegiate Institute in Gretna. Normal School in Winnipeg followed, and then teaching in Manitoba from 1934-1943. In 1943, John and his first wife Mary returned to Arnaud to help manage her parents’ general store. In 1946, they took over the running of the business. After Mary’s sudden death, John reluctantly agreed to his brother’s suggestion to correspond with a teacher in Ontario. John Harder and Mary Tiessen were married shortly thereafter. In 1953, the family moved to Vineland, where John and Mary established “Harder’s Dry Goods.”

The years in Vineland marked Harder’s expanding role in church life. In his local congregation, Vineland United Mennonite Church, he became Sunday School superintendent and lay minister. From 1964-1973 he was the first lay moderator of the Conference of the United Mennonite Churches of Ontario. In 1974, he was chairman of the hosting committee for the 1974 General Conference held in St. Catharines. He took particular satisfaction in pioneering inter-Mennonite cooperation, including helping to found the Mennonite Reporter national newspaper in 1971, and serving on its executive for many years. Harder also served as township councilor for six years in the 1960s.

Harder described himself as a man of “stolid character,” and is remembered by others for his business acumen, wise counsel, and dedication to family, church and community.


“Harder Pioneered in Inter-Mennonite Efforts.” Mennonite Reporter (20 January 1986): 17.

Harder, John N. “John N. Harder.” in Arnaud: Through the Years. Arnaud, Man: Arnaud Historical Committee, 1974, 225-226.

Harder, Leland, and Samuel W. Harder. The Blumstein Legacy : A Six Generation Family Saga 2nd ed. North Newton, KS: Harder Graphics, 2005.

Harder, V. Peter. “A grateful tribute.” 24 December 1985 [copy of this funeral eulogy located at the Mennonite Archives of Ontario]

Author(s) Laureen Harder-Gissing
Date Published March 2020

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MLA style

Harder-Gissing, Laureen. "Harder, John Norman (1910-1985)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. March 2020. Web. 6 Jun 2020. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Harder,_John_Norman_(1910-1985)&oldid=166840.

APA style

Harder-Gissing, Laureen. (March 2020). Harder, John Norman (1910-1985). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 6 June 2020, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Harder,_John_Norman_(1910-1985)&oldid=166840.

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