William Vernon Hart was born in Wilcox, AZ June 14, 1920. He fell asleep and awoke in the arms of Jesus on March 30,2012. “Vern” lived in Safford, AZ with his parents Robert Boyd Hart, mother Effie, brothers Delton, Duane and David, sisters Ruth and Maxine (“Micki”). He left home at the age of 16 to become a “missionary” in the Ozarks of Arkansas. Later he attended barber college.
Vern met his wife of 72 years, Mildred Lawler, in church. They both attended Grace and Glory Bible School in 1937 in Kansas City, MO. He married her in Solmansville, AZ Oct. 15, 1939. Vern worked as an electrician in the copper mines in Central Heights, AZ after the war broke out. With two young daughters, Sylvia and Verna, the family moved to Long Beach, CA where he served in the Navy.
After his discharge fro the Navy, he moved to the Watsonville, CA area and took a job at the Tarpy Ranch (Aromas) training horses and managing cattle. There he learned to fly and enjoyed airplanes throughout his life. He left the ranch to open a washing machine repair business in the Freedom area of Watsonville. That led to operating a used furniture store, followed by the purchase of Moder Furniture, which was later renamed Harts Furniture. Vern and Mildrd owned and operated the store for 40 years, which was followed by 9 years of ownership by daughter Sylvia Eckhardt and husband Loren.
Vern’s success in the furniture/interior decorating business included awards such as Watsonville Chamber’s Business Man of the Year and winner of trips and other bonuses from companies that recognized his high sales records.
His love of flying let to a charter membership in the Skyhawks Flying Club, and involved numerous trips with other members, many to South America. His last plane was a 6 seater V-tailed Beechcraft Bonanza.
Vern’s love for the Lord was demonstrated through many areas of service at First Baptist Church, Watsonville over a period of 6 decades, including several terms on the board. Vern and Mildred became very interested in “missions”. Subsequently, in 1958, the Harts, along with their Pastor, Dr. Ralph Kraft and his wife, Dorothy, embared on an “around the world” tour of 40+ mission destinations. Later, Vern became the first lay leader to serve on the Conservative Baptist Foreign Missions Board in Wheaton, IL.
In 1961, Vern, Mildred and oldest daughter, Sylvia, (Verna was recently married) volunteered to go to Koiakanal, India to be Hostel parents for the CBFMS missionary children attending the Highclair School. They served for almost one and a half years, while Harts Furniture had a successful, profitable time under management of its capable staff.
During this time in idia, Vern saw a deperate need for technical training of poor, orphaned and disadvantaged Indian young men. A visionary ahead of his time, Vern realized the advantages of developing an organization that has hands-on operation by the local nationals, and the oversight and financial support by western mission advocates.
In 1962, Vern and Mildred got permission for the Indian government to incorporate a technical school (that was not yet in existence). Along with longtime friend and pastor, Dr. Ralph Kraft, the arduous task of raising funds began. After years of hardwork and prayer, in 1973 the Prakash Institute of India was established on a 4 acre campus in Nagpur, India. He was Executive Director until 2000, when he retired and was succeeded by son-in-law Loren Eckhardt.
The Prakash school has recently expanded to operate a school for girls: Ruth Girls Institute. The Prakash organization that now includes both boys and girls, continues to be run by Indian men and women, some of whom are alumni of the school. Aproximately 110 students a year are taught job and life skills that equip them with a means to make a living. Along with that, they are taught spiritual skills, learning from the Bible the successful and abundant life they can have in Christ. Out of this has come the establishment of six churches in the nearby area. Veterinary Medicine Ministries is also under the Prakash for India umbrella and meets many needs in this community that depends a lot on farm animals in their economy.
Vern was a man of faith whose tender heart, love for the Lord and generous actions spoke volumes. Family and friends who knew him best will remember his life and accomplishments and will miss him until the day they see him once again in heaven.
Vern is survived by his wife, Mildred of Watsonville; daughter Sylvia Echardt (Loren) of Cumming, GA; Verna VanGroningen (Ron) of San Jose, CA; grandaughter Kimberly VanGroningen Bestrom (Stuart) of Santa Maria, CA; grandson Devin Echkardt (Veronica) of Roseville, CA; granddaughter Michelle VanGroningen Anthony (Michael) of Irvine, CA; eight great-grandchildren, (all of CA) Nicole Bestrom, Ashley Bestrom Connell (Stephen), Cambria Bestrom, Chantel Anthony, Brendon Anthony, Connor Eckhardt, Sabrina Eckhardt and Ashnika Eckhardt. Also brothers Duane Hart of Tempe, AZ; David Hart (Lola) of Corralitos, CA; Sister Micki Echols of Hanford, CA and numerous nephews and neices.
A memorial service will be held at a later date yet to be determined.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that any donation be made to:
Prakash for India, 2130 Stoney Point Farms Rd., Cumming, GA 30041
Ave Maria Memorial Chapel was entrusted with the arrangements.
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