Established in 1875
Kermit L. Harden Jr, 94 of Urbana, Illinois passed away peacefully in his sleep on Wednesday June 19, 2019. He was born October 26, 1924 in Maquon, IL to Kermit A. Harden Sr. and Hazel (Martin) Harden. He was preceded in death by his four younger siblings, Eldon (Dorothy) Harden, Gordon Harden, Norma Mae Harden, and Margaret Ann (George) Van Houten and grandchild Paige Elizabeth Lunsford.
Survivors include his wife of 60 years Harriett Ann Steinrauf Harden; one son, J. Andrew (Jackie) Harden of Urbana, IL and one daughter, Elizabeth Anne (Terry) Lunsford of Margate Florida and 5 grandchildren.
He graduated from Fairview, IL High School and began undergraduate studies in mathematics at the University of Illinois in 1941 where he earned a BS degree in Mathematics/Education in 1945 after military service. He received a Master’s Degree in Education from Bradley University in 1952 and earned his Doctorate in Education from the University of Illinois in 1972.
He was a decorated veteran of WWII. Having served in the 94th Infantry Division, he holds 4 Battle Stars: Northern France, Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe. His company was captured by the Germans in October 1944 and he was held as a POW for 45 days before being included in the first prisoner exchange of the war. He returned to active combat and received the Silver Star for Gallantry in Action in Germany, the Bronze Star at the Battel of the Bulge and the Purple Heart in Northern France. For his service to the people of France he was awarded the Order of the Legion d’Honneur by the French Government.
Kermit spent most of his life as an educator. He began his career as a math teacher in Havana, IL. He served as the Assistant Principal of the American School in Paris, France before returning to Illinois to become Assistant Superintendent and later Superintendent of Bethalto community schools. In 1968 he became Assistant Superintendent of Urbana Schools and later served as Superintendent from 1975 to 1983. After his retirement he served as an interim superintendent for multiple central Illinois school districts and a visiting Professor of Education at the University of Illinois. During retirement he also worked for 25 years as a licensed tax preparer and instructor for H&R Block.
He was married June 6, 1959 and spent 60 years with his wife Harriett Ann Harden. For the last 51 years, he was a resident of Urbana, IL where he was a tireless community volunteer. A faithful member of the First Presbyterian Church of Urbana, he served at various times as a Trustee, Deacon, Session and Clerk of the Session. He was a 2-time President of the Rotary Club of Bethalto and Urbana and served the Urbana club as secretary for 23 years. In 2013 he was named Rotarian of the Year.
Throughout his life, he was a generous contributor of time and money to worthy causes. He served as a board member for the Prairie Lands Boy Scout Council, The United Way, Champaign County Board and the March of Dimes. He was President of the Reading Group for 9 years, Chairman of the local Red Cross. He served as President, Secretary and Treasurer of the Urbana Free Library Board and was Co Chairman along with his wife in the capital campaign to raise funds for the Library’s expansion in 2005.
He was a loyal Illini fan all his life and a 50 year season ticket holder for both basketball and football. He served on and was President of the University of Illinois Alumni Board. He was a past President of the College of Education Alumni Board, a member of the President’s Council of the U of I Foundation. He also was a volunteer track and field official for 20 years and longtime member of the Illini Rebounders and Quarterback Clubs. He was a supporter of the Krannert Center for the Preforming Arts through the Symphony Guild and also enjoyed their many operatic and theatrical productions.
He was a gourmet cook and an avid vegetable gardener, he kept 3 plots at Meadowbrook Park Gardens for over 15 years and enjoyed gifting his abundant produce to friends and family. In his spare time he enjoyed traveling to Europe, attending Illini post season sporting events and spoiling his grandchildren.
He was a loving and generous son, brother, husband, father, grandfather and friend, who will be missed by all who knew him for his positive attitude on life, his strength of character, and his great sense of humor.
A visitation will be held on Thursday, June 27 from 5 to 7 pm at Renner-Wikoff funeral home in Urbana. Memorial services will be conducted at First Presbyterian Church of Urbana on Friday, June 28 at 10 am with burial immediately following at Roselawn Cemetery in Champaign, IL. In lieu of flowers the family requests memorials be made to the Urbana Free Library or First Presbyterian Church of Urbana.