BAR HARBOR — Residents and family are mourning the loss of mother and son Erlene and Leroy Harding, who died in last week’s house fire on Russell Farm Road. Both are remembered as kind, caring figures in the community.
Erlene Harding was one of the original founders of MDI Helpers, which became Downeast Horizons. It also was known for a time as the “Sheltered Workshop.”
Leroy Harding was intellectually disabled, and Erlene was very proud of both him and her work with the Sheltered Workshop, said Christine Harding, Erlene’s daughter-in-law.
Erlene, also a daycare worker, treated each of the children she took care of with tremendous care, Christine said.
“She would also make albums full of different pictures from magazines and inserts of items for her daycare children. She took special care to choose pictures of interest to each individual child.
“Many hours were spent cutting faces, dolls, photos, cars, trucks, animals, etc., filling each page,” she said. “My own children wore out their books looking through them, the bindings separating from use.”
In 1954, Erlene met her future husband, Percy, who was injured in last week’s fire. Christine said Erlene was working at a takeout restaurant and would intentionally forget items in Percy’s order to make him come back to speak with her.
The two wed in 1956 and were married for nearly 62 years.
Leroy Harding worked in the kitchen at Mount Desert Island Hospital since 1981. Christine remembered him as a devoted godfather to her youngest son, Sean, and a fixture in the community.
“Leroy got to be a teenager and young man all over again, reliving his youth with Sean.
“He loved Karaoke at Little A’s,” she said. “Everybody knew and loved Leroy. No one would allow anything to happen to him.”
Erlene’s son Raymond also was injured in the fire. Christine said he is recovering with family members.
“It is a miracle, and we are incredibly blessed,” Harding said.
Friends and neighbors have set up the Harding Family Fund at Bar Harbor Bank & Trust to help with expenses.
“The island community has been incredibly supportive, and we are overwhelmed and grateful beyond words,” Christine said.
Family and friends gathered on Sunday to grieve at the Somesville Union Meeting House, where the Hardings were longtime members.