ELMORE -- Merle Harder, who as Elmore village superintendent made sure the water and electricity flowed, sewage was treated, and the streets were paved, died Thursday in Swan Creek Retirement Village. He was 79.
He learned in September that he had non-small cell adenocarcinoma, his daughter Kim said.
Mr. Harder retired in the late 1990s, 22 years after the Ottawa County village recruited him to take on a dizzying variety of responsibilities. He supervised village workers. He oversaw the municipally owned power and water systems. He was in charge of streets, sewers, parks, and trees. And he was on call around the clock.
"He lived his life to serve others," his daughter said.
He took particular pride in the electrical substation he designed and helped build.
"He knew everything about electricity you could possibly know," said Sharon Arndt, his longtime secretary. He hoped to spark a quest for knowledge in others.
"When you worked for him, he pushed you to get licensed, to study things you never ever dreamt you'd study," Mrs. Arndt said. "He even had me back in the lab learning to run lab tests in case I had to do it. He had me studying electrical theory."
In 1995, he won the Larry Hobart Seven Hats Award from the American Public Power Association, which requires the recipient to possess multiple skills. The year before, he won the award from American Municipal Power/Ohio Municipal Electric Association. The area affiliate of the National Secretaries Association gave him its Best Boss Award.
"He was very intelligent and very aware of everything that was happening," said Gary Rhiel, president of the Elmore Board of Public Affairs. "He wanted to get the best individuals working for the village and the best for the future in electric, water, and sewer."
The village named a street in his honor, Merle Harder Boulevard, albeit one that leads to the sewage treatment plant -- the renovation of which he oversaw.
He was born Dec. 19, 1932, in the hamlet of Limestone in Benton Township. He was a 1950 graduate of Oak Harbor High School and a 1951 graduate of Gale Institute of Technology in Minneapolis. He worked for the New York Central Railroad before enlisting in the Coast Guard. Stationed on Kodiak Island in Alaska, he was a radioman aboard PBY aircraft.
Afterward, he was an electrician for U.S. Gypsum and became lead electrician for Brush Wellman Inc.
Mr. Harder built his own house in Ottawa County's Harris Township and built or rebuilt his children's homes, sometimes several times. He worked to relax, and he brought his toolbox, even aboard commercial airliners, when going to visit his children. Until his illness, Mr. Harder still took on electrician jobs -- wiring windmills for farmer friends and the like -- and still charged $20 an hour.
"The man was a common-sense genius," his daughter said. "My father had every tool known in the universe and knew how to use them."
He was a former Harris-Elmore volunteer firefighter. He belonged to the Elmore Lions Club and the Elmore Historical Society and was a member of American Legion Post 279.
Mr. Harder was a member of St. Mark's Lutheran Church, Graytown, Ohio.
He and his wife, Norma, married Oct. 2, 1954. She died May 23, 2005.
Surviving are his daughters, Kimberly Danes and Robin Hansen; sons, Steven and Todd Harder; brother, Clinton Harder; eight grandchildren; three great-grandchildren, and two step-grandchildren.
A celebration will begin at 2 p.m. Sunday at Schedel Arboretum & Gardens. Arrangements are by the Crosser Funeral Home, Elmore.
The family suggests tributes to the Cherry Street Mission, Toledo, or Senior Independence Hospice in care of the Ohio Presbyterian Retirement Services, Toledo.
Contact Mark Zaborney at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6182.