Advocate for local veterans passes away in Denver

Friends: Bill Harding ‘the kind of person God put on this Earth to help other people’

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Bill Harding

Services set

Services for Bill Harding, who died Saturday, have been set. The family will receive friends from 3 to 5 p.m. Thursday at Grant Mortuary, and memorial services will be at noon Friday at First Congregational Church in Craig.

Interment of cremains will follow in the Craig Cemetery. Memorial donations may be made to the American Cancer Society in care of Grant Mortuary.

Bill Harding, a former Moffat County Veterans Service Of­­ficer, died Saturday at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Denver.

Harding lived in Craig from 1976 until June 2009, when he and his wife, Sandy, moved to Grand Junction. He was an advocate for local veterans in Mof­fat County.

He died at 11:48 p.m. Sat­ur­­day.

On Jan. 29, he was flown by Flight for Life from Grand Junction to Denver after weeks of feeling poorly, Sandy Harding said.

It is thought that Harding died from an aggressive form of lymphoma, she added, but test results are pending.

He was 64 years old and would have celebrated his 65th birthday Sunday.

Sandy said a memorial service is being planned for Friday at First Congregational Church, 630 Green St., in Craig. The time of the service has not been determined.

Harding began working on behalf of veterans in 1999, when he became the county’s assistant Veterans Service Officer. He took over the primary position in 2003, and after a brief hiatus, returned to the job in 2006.

Harding, a Navy veteran, spoke of the reason behind his service to veterans in a May 2009 feature story about Sandy and him in the Saturday Morning Press.

He was a Vietnam-era veteran, and the harsh treatment Vietnam veterans received upon returning home left an indelible mark on him, he said.

“I work for the county, but the position requires that you’re working for the vets,” Harding said last year. “If you put the vets first, everything else falls into place.”

His service to veterans continued while he was in Grand Junction, where he moved to retire.

He worked a day a week driving veterans to and from medical appointments at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Sandy said.

He was also an organizer of the Honor Flight, a program that involved taking Western Slope World War II veterans on a trip to Washington, D.C.

News of his death was met with sadness Sunday among leaders in the local veteran community.

“What can you say?” said Ed Wilkinson, who succeeded Harding as the county’s Veterans Service Officer. “He went above and beyond the call of duty. … He took the extra step to be sure the job was done and the veteran was helped out.”

Wilkinson, who had known Harding for years, spent time with him last year as the two worked together transitioning the Veterans Service Officer position.

Wilkinson was impressed by the dedication he saw from Harding.

“Sitting there and watching him, he just went above and beyond to help veterans, to help veterans’ families, the (Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265), the American Legion (Post 62) and the guys with the Honor Flight.”

Mel Shockley, American Legion Post 62 commander, knew Harding since moving to Craig six years ago.

Harding served as the Amer­ican Legion’s junior vice commander under Shockley for four years, and Shockley also considered Harding a friend.

“It’s kind of hard to talk about,” Shockley said Sunday morning. “He helped me with everything. There wasn’t anything Bill wouldn’t do for anybody, and he did it.

“Bill thought of everybody but Bill. He was the kind of person God put on this Earth to help other people.”

Shockley said the community has suffered a loss from Harding’s passing.

“A big one,” he said. “A huge one. The kind of loss we didn’t need to suffer. … He put veterans first, and their families, and senior citizens. That was just Bill’s way. I haven’t met a finer man.”

Joshua Roberts can be reached at 875-1791 or jroberts@craigdailypress.com.

Comments

Neal Harkner 4 years, 2 months ago

I went to school with Bill and Sandy's daughters Krista and Erika. My condolences go out to the Harding family.

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webfly2000 4 years, 2 months ago

Bill was a gentleman through and through. He was also instrumental in getting the Moving Wall Memorial to Craig a few years ago. My uncle's name is there, and my family went to see it. My husband knew seven people on the wall as well. We both were very moved by it. Thank you Bill for being the man you were.

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aselan17 4 years, 2 months ago

I would like to thank everyone for their kind thoughts. I know my grandpa would have appreciated it. I would like to say that we have settled on a time for the service it will be at noon on friday the 5th. As for the article, thank you Joshua. It really showed the kind of man my grandpa was.

With gratitude, Alex Selan and family

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trout2k 4 years, 2 months ago

Rest in peace, my dear friend. Your acts of kindness will live on in this community. May god watch over your family in this time of need. See you on the river.

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rhard53 4 years, 2 months ago

I have passed along this beautifully written article to my Mom, my brothers, and their families. Have spent a lot of time today thinking about our early days growing up together in Canton, all the family gatherings, all the days of our carefree youth. Have thought today about family members who have preceeded us: Grandmas H & M, my Dad, U. Harry & A. Rosemary, U. Bill, and my brother, Jim. I believe they are all having a glorius reunion the last couple of days welcoming Bill to a much better place. Take care of each other, Sandy & family, A. Marie, Jeff, Kim & family, & Sue. Love and God's peace to you all, (Cuz) Ray Harding

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