I wish I’d known Floyd Harding ’45.
Harding, who died in April, was a first-generation college student, the 11th of 12 children raised on a dairy farm in Albion, Maine. He worked his way through a couple of years of Colby milking cows at a farm owned by a professor and almost got in trouble after students wrangled a cow from the same farm up the stairs of the belfry of the chapel. Harding professed his innocence, saying he just milked the cows and never, ever brought one to college.
Another sort of innocence was lost soon after, as Harding joined the Army in fall of 1943. College hijinks was replaced by the bloody Battle of the Bulge, where he was captured by the Germans during their counterattack in the Ardennes Forest. Harding’s father received a telegram in Albion. The yellowed document is in Harding’s alumni folder:
THE SECRETARY OF WAR DESIRES ME TO EXPRESS HIS DEEP REGRET THAT YOUR SON PRIVATE FIRST CLASS FLOYD L HARDING HAS BEEN REPORTED MISSING IN ACTION TWENTY ONE DECEMBER IN GERMANY. …
Harding was taken with other prisoners to Dresden, where he remained during the Allied firebombing of the city in 1945. His barracks-mate, Kurt Vonnegut, recreated the experience vividly—POWs and guards huddled together in basements as the bombs rained down—in his novel Slaughterhouse Five. Harding later summed up his war experience more succinctly in a Colby questionnaire: “U.S. Army, Infantry, Corporal.”
Harding remained very connected to Colby over the years, despite the fact that he didn’t resume his studies here. (With other alumni veterans, he was awarded a bachelor’s degree in 1989.). After the war Harding took courses in Florida, got his law degree from Boston University, and moved to Presque Isle, Maine, where he had a successful law practice with his son Alan Harding ’75. (A grandson was named Colby, recognizing Floyd Harding’s affection for the school). The elder Harding also was a state senator, which allowed him to advocate for Aroostook County. He was instrumental in establishing a program for disabled residents, a community college, and the University of Maine at Presque Isle. After the Air Force base closed there, he helped turn the property into a vocational school.
Doing good was a big part of Harding’s life, as it is for many Colbians. Recognizing that, we’ve added a standing feature, beginning with this issue. Pediatrician Kim Mukerjee ’06 appears in Colby online in reference to her important work with immigrant children in New Orleans.
But Floyd Harding deserves mention, too. He appears here representing all who have done good before.
Gerry Boyle ’78, P’06