Patricia Nina Viola (Bybee) Harding was a kind woman who loved and was loved by an even kinder God. On February 27, 2023, she stepped into heaven and met Jesus face to face. If you knew her, you were impressed by her consistent faith; if you were someone she loved, you were aware she always listened to you and prayed for you; if you were family; she made you feel you were special and could accomplish whatever your heart targeted.
Married for 58 years to the love of her life, Robert (Roy) Harding Sr., she nurtured her five children, 19 grandchildren, and 35 great-grandchildren. Her progeny includes pharmacist, farmers, missionaries, heavy equipment operators, school employees, caregivers, computer programmers, garbage men, electricians, and educators: the diversity of their careers matches Patricia’s wide-ranging curiosity and boundless creativity. Following her own mother’s lead, she was famous for her love of “doctor’s books” and gardening and painting. Nonetheless, the greatest medicine she dispensed was acceptance, the finest crop she consistently raised was compassion, and the most colorful artwork she produced was the smiles on generations of small children who eagerly came to visit grandma (or G-G-ma).
Long before Patricia earned these affectionate titles, she was the ninth child in a family of 11. Her father and mother, Benjamin and Ella, steered their large brood through the depths of the Great Depression. This was an experience that molded her, and it became almost a birthright that if you were a Harding, you embraced the opportunities to work hard–because this was the path to success in life. As a maid in the 1980’s Patricia was named employee of the year for the nationwide Dillon Inn motel chain: her reward was a trip to Hawaii for two–needless to say, she took Dad with her. They were inseparable. We all learned that giving your best meant you would have a personal satisfaction that was enduring–and sometimes others would recognize your value as well. But even if they didn’t, you knew you had given your utmost. And that was what really mattered.
So we have taken the lessons of her life, and we have adapted them to the work to which we have dedicated our own lives. This is our first tribute to her influence on us. We have also mirrored the joy she shared in simple things. This was a woman who rescued what looked like a stick rising out of the sand on the beach at Swanson Reservoir in Trenton, Nebraska, and brought it home in a coffee can. Though we all teased her, this little sapling–once planted in her yard–grew into a mighty cottonwood through whose branches many children climbed. That was mom–always seeing the value in something others overlooked. That is our second tribute to her impact on our view of the world.
Ultimately, her greatest legacy–and the finest tribute we can offer her–is that we will remember. In those moments when we are silent, we will hear her telling us from her hospital bed to “Live your lives well.” In those days still ahead when we enjoy our grown children and their children, we will recall the warmth of her embraces that encompassed each of her children and grandchildren. And in the inevitable decline that will visit each of us before we are ready, we will remember the grace with which she modeled how to look forward with hope, knowing that we never end. We never really end.
Visitation 11:00 am Friday, March 3, 2023 at Metcalf Funeral Home, 245 N. 27th Street, Lincoln, NE.
Funeral Service 1:00 pm Friday, March 3, 2023 at Metcalf Funeral Home Chapel.
Memorials to the family for future designation.
Burial at Wyuka Cemetery, Lincoln, NE.