Harding, Jessie

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                                      JESSIE HARDING
                                    By Cathy Carnahan

Tabusintac’s oldest resident turned one year older on Aug. 17, but Jessie Harding isn’t counting numbers. At 90, she’s much too busy to think about getting old. “Well I don’t see any reason why I should just sit in a chair,” she said. “I had my own car up until three years ago. Then they wouldn’t let me get my license because I had diabetes.” That hasn’t stopped her from getting around.

The Tabusintac Memorial Library and Museum is planning its annual Christmas luncheon and craft sale on Oct. 19 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Harding hopes to help out. She always has, the library and museum holds many of her childhood memories.

The library used to be the Methodist Church, which she attended as a child. And there is one item of special interest to Harding at the museum. It’s the black bonnet that her first Sunday school teacher, Jean Hierlihy used to wear. “I could go right to the seat where I used to sit. And I still remember many of those verses she taught us,” Harding said.

The Methodist church was moved to its present location on the main highway in 1902, according to a history written about the area. It also says in 1925 the Methodist church was then known as the United Church Hall and church meetings were held there. In 1939, the building was rented for use as a high school and in 1967 the United Church sold the building to the local women’s institute as a library. The library remains and important part of the Tabusintac community, as does the museum and craft shop which were later added to the building. The museum features many artifacts, some of which date back to the early 1800s, and the craft shop has a variety of items for sale.

Harding sat in the living room of her small home on the Gaythorne Road looking much younger than her years as she talked. Her beautiful, wavy silver gray hair was neatly combed back and her soft blue eyes twinkled beneath her glasses.

She was born and raised in Tabusintac and it is here she calls home. In the quiet of her small house she cooks, reads and turns tiny bits of material into beautiful quilts. “I sure love to quilt,” Harding said with a wide smile. “I’ve been quilting ever since I was married and that’s a long time.”

She and her husband, Eldon, were married in 1922. “I always said if there was a perfect man in Tabusintac, I got him,” said Harding with another of her brilliant smiles. “Going to church was our biggest interest and singing. He was a great singer,” she said.

He was almost 97 when he died. His birthday was October 12 and he died on Sept. 4, 1988.

A large photo of him in his younger years is displayed in a beautiful antique frame in the living room. “Eldon had a great sense of humor,” said Bertha Wishart as she and her friend exchanged memories. “Yes, he loved everybody and everybody loved him,” said Harding. She and Eldon had no children, but neighborhood children often came to visit, and still do, she said.

She recalls her married years with fondness, including the many years of worship she and Eldon enjoyed together at the Highway Pentecostal Church. “I’ve been going there for 58 years,” Harding said. “That includes twice on Sunday, a ladies’ bible study on Tuesday morning and another Bible study on Wednesday night.

Her other love is quilting. Wishart is secretary of the Tabusintac Memorial Library and Museum. She said Harding has helped tremendously over the years by assisting the group and making quilts for the sale.

“It was your aunt Jen that gave me the pieces for my first quilt,” Harding said looking to her friend. Wishart’s Aunt Jen was Jane MacCallum. “Them days there were no new pieces like today. It was just scraps,” said Harding.

“Would you like to see the quilt I just finished,” she asked. Then she hopped out of her chair and briskly left the room, returning with a couple of her latest creations. The first she and Wishart spread out was a gorgeous red and green quilt, called The Sampler.

“Look at her work,” Wishart said exclaiming the neat and consistent stitching. “I like the back to look as good as the front, said Harding as she turned the quilt. “I want $400 for that one,” she noted. The price varies according to size and the amount of work involved, but Harding is particularly proud of The Sampler. Another she recently completed was called The Sunflower. It, too, is beautiful done in white and turquoise with various colored inserts.

Over the years, Harding has made a lot of quilts and sold a lot, but said she didn’t keep track of how many. She has photos of many of them, some of which have gone as far away as the United States. “Of course, for a number of years, I hooked mats,” she said nodding to appealing flowered rug in front of the sofa. The sofa is decorated with some of her homemade cushions. Afghans and doilies are also found throughout the room, each carefully designed by a woman who refuses to grow old.

Source: Miramichi Leader – October 2, 1992

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