Frankie Lee Harder 95, Gospel Singer, Songwriter, Music and Piano Teacher, Pianist, and Gospel Music Promoter of Hendersonville went home to be with the Lord on Wednesday evening, December 6, 2017.
Frankie L. Harder was born in Franklin, Oklahoma March 7, 1922, the fourth son of the late Mr. and Mrs. J.W. Harder. Church centered activities and gospel singing were influences from a very early age with his mother most encouraging in developing musical talents. The earliest performance in public remembered was at the age of 4 when he sang a solo in the closing program of a singing school in his home church. His mother swapped a cow for his first piano at the age of 10.
As musical opportunities became more numerous, his sister Maxine, the youngest member of the family, joined him in duet singing. This duet performed on radio broadcasts in Shawnee Oklahoma when their ages were 6 and 11. Their Radio Sponsor at Station KGFF in Shawnee was Parkins Hatchery. Attending singing conventions, church services, and radio programs were interests that continued for the following 8-10 years. It was during this time that his first gospel song was published. Occasionally he would play the piano for Oral Roberts at his tent Revivals, in exchange for the transportation from Roberts to the Revivals.
Probably the most outstanding influence on Harder’s life in gospel music, other than his mother, was the late V. O. Stamps. Mr. Stamps made available the first formal training in Gospel Music in a scholarship to Harder at the age of 12. The parents provided room, board and transportation expenses to Dallas; Mr. Stamps providing the musical training in class lessons and private piano instruction. Later an apartment was rented in Dallas and maintained by his mother while Frankie and Maxine attended 3 summer sessions of the Stamps-Baxter School of Gospel Music. This gave Harder the opportunity to study with the outstanding gospel keyboard artists of that era.
Singing School teaching was encouraged by the late V. O. Stamps, and Harder taught his first singing school at Garden Grove Baptist Church in Central Oklahoma at the age of 14. This was a three-week school, offering both day and night classes in sight singing and the rudiments of music. Other experiences in the leadership of gospel music included: President of the City Community Singing, Shawnee Oklahoma: President of the Pottawatomie County Singing Convention, and Secretary of the Oklahoma State Convention at age 17. Harder graduated from Shawnee High School and attended Oklahoma Baptist University for one year.
After 3 years of Military Service in WWII, Harder joined the piano faculty of the Stamps Quartet School of Music in Bethel Temple, Dallas Texas for the 1946-1947 sessions. Later making his home in Hattiesburg Mississippi, residential opportunities were provided to continue his college education with the GI Bill, while conducting private teaching, radio, recording and concert work. Harder was Campus President of the student chapter of Music Educators National Conference at the University of Southern Mississippi, where he received both Bachelor and Master of Music Education Degrees. Musical experiences included tenor soloist with the Vesper Choir while a student at the University and director of Radio Youth Choir at Broad Street Methodist Church in Hattiesburg. It was while a Senior at USM that he met and married Rachel Mitchell, reigning Smile Queen of the City of Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
Upon acceptance of a position with the Duval Board of Public Instruction in Jacksonville Florida, the Harder’s moved to Florida where Frankie served as instructor of Junior High General Music and Choral Director at both Kirby Smith and Arlington Junior High. The Harder’s only child, Dena Marie was born during this time, and later contributed to the family trio in gospel singing. During the instructional experience in Jacksonville, Harder co-authored the Junior High Curriculum for Duval County Florida, and was associated with Jacksonville University and Florida State University as Directing Teacher in their Internship Program. Harder was a Charter Member of the Epsilon Delta Field Chapter of Phi Delta Kappa, a professional fraternity promoting the ideals of research, service, and leadership in education.
Gospel Music played an important part in the family move to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina in 1971. Singing Schools, private instructional work in the keyboard instruments and church music made up the program of music in their new location. During the years which followed, Harder served four years as Faculty Member of Blue Ridge Technical Institute, Community Junior College in the Hendersonville area. Harder was instructor of private instrumental music at Faith Christian Day School in Hendersonville and had studios at Ward’s House of Music, Waldrops Music Studios, as well as his home studio. He was a member of Maranatha Baptist Church, where he served as Director of Music.
In the span of years for the promotional cause of Gospel Music, Harder conducted Singing Schools in the States of Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia as well as North and South Carolina. He was founder of the Labor Day Gospel Music Festival and Old Time Singing Convention which met annually for over 40+ years at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Blue Ridge Baptist Campground on Howard Gap Road, in Hendersonville, and Maranatha Baptist Church in Flat Rock North Carolina.
Upon recovering from a major health issue in 2000, Frankie Harder believed God extended his life to perform a special ministry. After much prayer, he felt called to begin a Men’s music ministry and contacted former piano students Steve Carson and Kevin Robinson to assist him in this endeavor. In February 2003, the Sound of Singing Men was formed. The group was comprised of as many as 30 voices from Henderson, Rutherford, Polk, and Transylvania Counties.
Carson served as the original Director and Robinson was accompanist. Harder was the music arranger, and promoter of the group. The Sound of Singing Men rehearsed twice monthly and presented Gospel Music in Concerts around Western North Carolina and Upstate South Carolina for 14 years. When Carson and Robinson stepped down, Rick McMinn became Director and Harder continued as accompanist, arranger, and promoter. McMinn resigned due to health issues and David Owens was tapped to lead the group.
The highlight of each season was the Annual Christmas Buffet. Tagged as the Men’s gift to the Community the Buffet grew each year. The 2017 Buffet entertained more than 200 guests at the Refuge Baptist Church Family Life Center in Dana.
Frankie Harder’s teaching reached as many as three generations of students in the Hendersonville Area and over 150 songs written in his 81 years of teaching, including his time in Western North Carolina.
Harder was preceded in death by the love of his life Rachel (Re’ Re’) Harder in 1981. Survivors’ include his daughter, Dena Harder Willard; Son-in-law, Wayne T Willard Jr, and Grandson Wayne T. Willard III (Trey). He is also survived by his sister Dena Maxine Hinshaw of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Visitation to be at Forest Lawn Funeral Home on Tuesday, December 12th, from 5-8pm.
The Funeral Service will be at Refuge Baptist Church, Wednesday, December 13th at 2pm, followed by Graveside Service at Forest Lawn Memorial Park.
The family asks that you wear something RED, as a celebration of Frankie Harder’s life, and “LOVE of ANY color as long as it’s RED!”
Date: Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Time: 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Forest Lawn Funeral Home Chapel
Date: Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Time: 2:00 pm
Refuge Baptist Church
Date: Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Time: 3:30 pm
Forest Lawn Memorial Park
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