Steve Harder, the previous president of the Eastern Angora Goat and Mohair Association (formerly known as the Virginia Angora Goat and Mohair Association) died of pancreatic cancer on Saturday, April 23rd at about 9 PM. He was attended by his loving wife Pat, his children and grandchild, friends, and all the love that the wider world could send in his direction.
I met Steve when I joined VAGMA as a bright-n-shiny new Angora goat owner. I attended my first VAGMA show armed only with a notebook, camera, and enthusiasm. Despite being the eye of the storm of busy people, goats, and activities, Steve was always ready to answer my questions with a smile. He was always well-spoken and kind, with a gruff humor that kept the sting from even the most well-deserved of repremands regarding goat handling. Steve and his wife Pat kept the VAGMA group together as it grew from Virginia to spread up and down the eastern seaboard and westward into Ohio and Tennessee.
Steve was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer almost two years ago on July 14th 2009, about a month after his sister died of the same disease*. He went in for surgery on the tumor on September 2nd, and then the fight began in earnest. There was a small, bright bit of hope that Steve would win the battle due to having started his fight so early, and having commuted to Johns Hopkins for his chemotherapy and surgeries. Steve entered into the pancreatic cancer vaccine trial with JH in the hopest that this would boost his chances even further.
While modern medicine can produce hope, sometimes miracles are beyond mortal reach. Steve began to fail early this spring. In mid-March, hope died. Steve ended up in the hospital on March 18th with "inoperable complications," and he went onto IV fluids. His kidneys continued to function - partially - so he and his wife made the decision to move him home to hospice care for the last week. The family began planning his memorial (with his help!) and called the family together. And then Steve rallied. One week became two, then three, then four.
He spent his last slice of time in the sunshine with his family, chatting and napping. I called him on April 11th after the goat board meeting to ask how he would like to be remembered at the show. His response distilled to "If people speak of me, I hope they speak kindly."
We will, Steve.
May the God of your choosing embrace you. May the faith that your family has chosen comfort them. Your friends send you to your rest with love, happiness, humor, and the knowledge that we are all richer for having known you. Your Father calls you to His Court. You need not pack; you go garbed in glory as you stand. He waits eagerly by His palace doors to welcome you, and has prepared a place at His high table by His side, in the company of the great-souled, honored, and best-beloved. In this I speak true.
Happy Easter, Steve.
*I may have this timeline wrong. It's what's in my head without verification.