St. Steven’s Respect Life Ministry in Sun Lakes, Arizona, announced their First Family of the Year, the Thomas and Ellen Harder Family, at a special celebration held in the Fitzpatrick Center Great Hall on Tuesday morning, October 2, 2018, directly after 7:30 a.m. Mass. Those present were able to witness the family members in attendance receive a framed commendation from the parish and a brass statue of the Holy Family that also had a music component and a Guardian Angel statue. Congratulatory letters were read from Bishop Thomas Olmsted and Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo Nevares, both of the Diocese of Phoenix, Arizona; Governor Doug Ducey and Chandler Mayor Jay Tibshraeny. Special honored guest attending was Mr. Michael Phelan, Director of Marriage and Respect Life, Diocese of Phoenix.
Thomas and Ellen Harder’s journey began when they met in high school in New York, were married in 1972, moved to Lake Havasu City, Arizona, moved to Texas in 1983 and then settled in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1986.
Married for 46 years, Thomas and Ellen were blessed with three daughters and eight grandchildren. Daughter Laura is married to Matt, and they live in Indiana. They have son Nathan, age 23, who is married to Desiree.
A daughter, Madison, died from neuroblastoma one day before her fourth birthday. Their 8-year-old daugher Emily was born on Christmas Day. They attend St. Susanna Church.
Dena and Debbie are twins. Dena is married to James, and they have two boys, Zach 15 and Tyler 13, and they belong to St. Mary Magdalene Parish in Gilbert. Debra is married to Mike, and they have three daughters, MacKenzie 13, Makaleigh 9 and Delainey 7, and they attend St. Steven’s Church.
“Taking care of Madison as she went through cancer treatments was a family affair, and we made all our important decisions in the Adoration Chapel at St. Mary’s. She was diagnosed at 18 months with stage 4 neuroblastoma, but was born with the cancer. She went through two and a half years of treatment starting with chemo, then surgery and then radiation treatments. She had a stem cell transplant in Tucson. We traveled with her to Lourdes in hopes of a miracle. Her next treatment was nuclear medicine in CHOPS, the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania. She succumbed to the disease a day before her fourth birthday at home with all of us around her. We are always getting signs that she is still around us. Madison is still an important person in the lives our families and will always be remembered.”
St. Steven’s parishioners for 15 years, Tom and Ellen attend daily mass, are daily communicants and, as Catholics, they are strong in their faith and prayers and recite the Rosary together every day. Tom has been a business owner and self-employed for multiple years and recently sold his Chandler business, the Eldorado Pest Control, and is now retired. Ellen has worked with financial institutions for over 30 years and is now semi-retired and most recently was working part-time with Wells Fargo.
Both have been and still are very involved with multiple ministries of churches of which they were members. Tom and Ellen did pre-Cana for married couples at St. Timothy’s, brought Eucharist to patients in the Pecos nursing home for many years through St. Mary’s and Ellen has volunteered with Chandler Regional Medical Center for over 25 years as a Eucharistic Minister and has taught Catechism and volunteered in the Aid to Women’s Center in Tempe, Arizona. Ellen is a member of the St. Steven’s Praise and Worship Ministry, Divine Mercy and the Endow Women’s Group, and Tom has given much assistance to Ellen in many of her volunteering ventures and is a member of St. Steven’s Knights of Columbus 9678. Tom emulates St. Joseph as he can create most anything with his gifted hands and has remodeled their house and helped others. They have quietly assisted neighbors, parishioners and others in the community with homemade bread, food and tasks and prayers when they are in need. Excellent mentors for others, they fulfill their daily life looking after their children, grandchildren, neighbors, friends, community and all others who are in need of their assistance.