Mary Jane Harding
Born January 12, 1934
Died April 5, 2021
Life partner, mother, sister, friend, educator, musician, farmer, philanthropist
Mary created a meaningful life for her family, friends and the unique community connections she fostered. She was purposeful, planned and passionate in every way. Whether it was singing in choirs, teaching talented vocalists, developing outreach projects at the church, or making jars of jam, Mary was an ever-present contributor to the lives of others.
Her spirit for adventure was fostered with her parents at a very young age. The treasured trips began as a young teen up to their cherished Valhalla Island on Muskoka Lake. This infectious love of nature, outdoor activities and the spirit of living life fully is part of her legacy, which has rippled outwards to her children and grandchildren.
Mary continued her zest for life with her husband, Paul, for over sixty years. As the ultimate life companion, Mary traveled and lived in England with their three very young children for a few years during Paul’s further study. She was a foundation of support in Paul’s professional life and they enjoyed creating memories together all across Canada and in many places abroad.
As a graduate of Macdonald Institute (University of Guelph) in 1956, Mary was an impressive educator with diverse interests, ranging from nutrition to sailing. After raising four children, she studied with the Royal Conservatory of Music and became an experienced and highly sought-after vocal coach and teacher. This endeavour also coincided with her key contribution at Boview Farm with numerous animals and outstanding gardens. Mary embraced self-sufficiency before it was in vogue and was proud to host many magnificent meals with eclectic guests for over forty years. The dishes were delightful and set alongside the beautiful flowers from her gardens.
Mary was a generous supporter of the arts, of education for many recipients, and of the mission at Dundas Street Centre United Church. There, she was a powerful presence and helped with the church’s evolution in becoming integral to London’s downtown core. Her diversity of interests was pronounced and she was equally comfortable at the theatre, at university events or at Boview farm wearing rubber boots.
Although smaller in stature, Mary was mighty in personality. She was willing to be present and share her thoughts openly in conversation, was fully committed to her dear people and noble pursuits, and was quick to enjoy a good hearty laugh. She is predeceased by her husband Paul, her parents David and Nellie and sister-in-law, Diana. She is survived by her brother John, sister Elizabeth-Ann (Ray), four children and their partners Martha, David (Karen), John (Beverley), Tom (Kara), and special cousins Lorna (Ernie) and Joanne, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
The family are deeply grateful for the exceptional care provided by Mary’s support system at Strathmere Lodge in Strathroy, Ontario. A Celebration of Life is planned for a future date. As a tribute to her interests in education and agriculture, please consider a donation to the Mary Jane Harding Fund, Alumni House, University of Guelph. A direct link has been provided to the left of the obituary.