Mildred Elizabeth (Lawler) Hart: mother, grandmother, great-grandmother (the last survivor of 6 siblings) was born December 14, 1920 in Kansas City, KS to Robert and Minnie Lawler. On April 15, 2012, 16 days after her husband Vern died, she joined him in the presence of the Lord. They had rarely been apart during their 72+ years of marriage and it is fitting that they were so quickly reunited in Heaven.
In an early display of the work ethic that would define her life, Mildred graduated from high school at age 16 and became a secretary to four lawyers.
In 1937 Mildred met Vernon Hart at church, and they both attended Grace and Glory Bible College in Kansas City, MO. The couple was married in Solomonville, AZ on October 15, 1939.
After becoming the mother to daughters Sylvia and Verna, Mildred went with her young family to Central Heights, AZ where her husband Vern worked as an electrician in the copper mines. Mildred later became a Navy wife and the family spent time in Long Beach, CA where Vern was stationed. The post-Navy time resulted in a move to the Watsonville, CA area. Later Mildred and her husband went in the appliance and furniture business. Eventually they bought Modern Furniture and renamed in Harts Furniture. As a working wife and mother she helped her husband operate the store for 36 years. The store continued for 13 additional years under the ownership of daughter Sylvia Eckhardt and husband Loren.
In 1958 Mildred and her husband took their first “around the world” tour of 40+ mission fields with Dr. Ralph Kraft (and wife Dorothy), who was pastor of First Baptist Church of Watsonville. Mildred was involved in Women’s Ministries for 6 decades at this church and remained a member until her death.
Part of a team in every sense of the word, Mildred got her pilot’s license so she could co-pilot with her husband on the couple’s many multi-country flights in their private plane.
In 1961 Mildred, Vern and oldest daughter Sylvia (daughter Verna had recently married), volunteered to go to Kodaikanal, India as hostel parents for the CBFMS missionary children attending Highclaire School. This experience inspired the Harts to start a project that included the building of a school that would offer technical training of the poor, orphaned and disadvantaged young men of India. This dream came to fruition in 1973 when the non-profit technical school Prakash Institute of India was established on a 40+acre campus located in Nagpur, India. Her husband served as Executive Director until 2000 when he was succeeded by son-in-law Loren Eckhardt.
Prakash Institute has expanded under the leadership of Loren and Sylvia to building and operation of a school for girls, Ruth Girls Institute. The Prakash for India organization now teaches a trade to approximately 110 young men and women each year, educating them in job, life and spiritual skills that prepare them for a fruitful life. Also included under the Prakash for India umbrella are 6 churches established by alumni of the school and much needed Veterinary Medicine ministry.
Mildred, better known as “Mama” to family and friends, was loved and adored by both staff and students, being mother to many of these orphaned young men. She actively participated in the ongoing Prakash for India ministry until her retirement in 2000.
In recent years her love of travel led to many more trips with daughters Sylvia and Verna and their husbands Loren and Ron. The trips included places in CA, AZ, WA, OR, ID, Canada, and Mexico where more priceless memories were made.
Mildred’s faith in the Lord, as well as her unwavering support and love for her husband Vern, stood out as exemplary to all who knew her. Her life has made a huge difference to so many. She leaves a legacy of Christian service and love to be continued by those whose lives she impacted, who find comfort in the knowledge they will see her again in Heaven!
Mildred was predeceased by her husband Vern who passed away March 30, 2012. She is survived by her daughters Sylvia Eckhardt (Loren) of Cumming, GA; Verna VanGroningen (Ron) of San Jose, CA; granddaughter Kimberly VanGroningen Bestrom (Stuart) of Santa Maria, CA; grandson Devin Eckhardt (Veronica) of Roseville, CA; granddaughter Michelle VanGroningen Anthony (Michael) of Irvine, CA; grandson Trenton Eckhardt of Edmonds, WA; 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 numerous nephews and nieces.
A joint memorial service for both Mildred and her husband Vern will be held at the First Baptist Church, Watsonville on a date yet to be determined.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that any donations be made to:
Prakash for India
2130 Stoney Point Farms Rd.
Cumming, GA 30041
Ave Maria Memorial Chapel has been entrusted with the arrangements.For the complete article see the 04-21-2012 issue.
Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 04-21-2012 paper.
Share on Facebook