Harriett Crum

We gather together today to mourn the loss, but also to celebrate the life of Harriet (often known as Betty) Crum.

Jesus said,

Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my fathers house are many mansions; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go and prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. You know the way to the place where I am going…Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father except through me.

The Apostle Paul wrote,
2 Cor. 5 (from the Message)

We know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven–God-made, not handmade–and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move–and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead, He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.

That’s why we live with such good cheer. You won’t see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet! Cramped conditions here don’t get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead. It’s what we trust in but don’t yet see that keeps us going. Do you suppose a few ruts in the road or rocks in the path are going to stop us? When the time comes, we’ll be plenty ready to exchange exile for homecoming.”

Will you pray with me?

Our Father, our hearts are heavy. We acknowledge that all life comes from You. Today we need your help. Help us to remember . . to remember not only the life of Harriet Crum . . . help us to remember the truth that this life is not all this. Help us to believe, to hope, and to cope, for we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Harriet “Betty” Crum was born near Blandinsville, Illinois on February 26, 1918 to Evan Luther and Treva Elzada Parker Williams.

She was raised in the Blandinsville community and graduated from Blandinsville High School. While she was in high school she was a cheerleader and played the banjo and trombone. For awhile she was a telephone Operator in Blandinsville.

Harriet married John Crum in Mt. Pleasant IA on June 2, 1939. She lived most of her married life near Disco, Illinois. She and John moved to LaHarpe in 1981. She was a member of the D.E. Club, the B.O. Chapter of the P.E.O. and was a very active member of the Union Church where she was one of the “Sunshine Girls”.

Harriet died on April 23rd and was 81 years old. She is survived by her husband John,
one son and daughter-in-law Roger and Marjorie Crum of LaHarpe;
one granddaughter, Michele Hester of Walnut Hill, Illinois
one grandson, Rodney Crum of LaHarpe
two great-grandchildren Bailey and Brant Hester. And several nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by 4 brothers: Bill, Fay, Max and Lyle Parker Williams and one sister, Nellie Halcomb.

Harriet’s niece, Sherry wrote the following remembrance,

What is an Aunt? In my case an Aunt is a special loving person you’ve known all your life.
As I was growing up this Aunt remembered every birthday and always gave special presents at Christmas. I remember one birthday when I was a teenager she gave me a beautiful white blouse. I picked it out myself and it cost $9.00, which in the earl 50’s was a lot of money for a blouse.

In the summer this aunt would invite me to stay with them for a few days to help her. She’d give me some job to do and PAY me – I remember the money but don’t remember doing anything to earn it.

This aunt never missed a school activity in her area that my brother or I was involved in. This was also true of my children. She went to every Graduation, shower, wedding – everything that was important to us was important to her. She even went to my two daughters first dance recital. I’m sure most of you know what first dance recitals are like.
When my third child was born this aunt took over. At the time my mother was getting around in a wheelchair recuperating from a broken ankle. My dad was in the Burlington Hospital recuperating from a heart attack, and my husband was recuperating from a hernia operation. What to do with my other two children? This Aunt volunteered to keep my 2 ½ year old son for the five days while I was in the hospital. She became so attached to him that she cried when she had to give him back.

When I was in my mid-thirties I lost my mother who was 54. This mother was also this aunt’s only sister and she was completely devastated herself. But this Aunt put aside her personal grief and became a second mother to me and a surrogate grandmother to my three children aged 11, 9, and 8.

This aunt was so concerned about my first Mother’s Day without my mom that she made sure I had a special day. This aunt and my Uncle took my family on one of their famous Sunday afternoon rides to nearby Missouri, across some ferry there, and then to the Keokuk Hotel for dinner.

Anytime we stopped at her house this Aunt rushed upstairs to bring down toys and games which were immediately scattered all over the floor and everyone played together. Of course, this aunt also had the best ice cream and cookies around.

In the summer my three children went to visit usually for about a week and usually one child at a time. All three enjoyed feeding the chickens and gathering the eggs and placing the eggs in a bucket. Of course several of the eggs somehow got broken each time. This aunt always dyed Easter eggs with my girls – a job I hated and never did.

This Aunt always took my girls shopping in Burlington at Schramms Department Store. They were told they could buy anything they wanted. Once my younger daughter had picked out a pretty night gown and this Aunt said, “You have to have a peignoir to go with it.” My daughter didn’t know what a peignoir was but she found out that day as she went home with a beautiful one. When this same daughter would go for her visits to this Aunt’s house she was told that she was to sleep in a bed all by herself – this Aunt was not to sleep with her! And this Aunt promised me my daughter would sleep in her own bed – so, naturally, who slept alone? Uncle John.

Now this Aunt has become not only an aunt, and a -great aunt, but also a great-great aunt to my two granddaughters. This aunt has never forgotten either of their birthdays and always sent a card with one of her special letters and a little money tucked in too. This Aunt did get in trouble a couple of years ago when she sent my younger Granddaughter the same birthday card two years in a row. My Granddaughter was asked, “how do you know it’s the same card?” “Why because I still have last year’s card hanging up!”
What is an Aunt . . a perfect example is my Aunt Harriet! Thank you, dear one, for all the wonderful memories that I will cherish forever.
Your Niece, Sherry


Harriet Crum was a spirited and delightful woman. She grew up in a family that believed in having a good time and Harriet enjoyed with the best of them.

Harriet claims she was twelve years old before she realized her first name was not Betty but Harriet. Later when she learned that she was named Harriet for her grandmother, she preferred her given name.

There are a number of things we can and should say about Harriet (or Betty) Crum.

She was a great cook

Harriet was a wonderful cook. She would never have brought something to a gathering she threw together from a box. No way! If it was worth doing, it was worth doing right. She started from scratch.

She was known for her turtle brownie bars, her pies, her peanut butter fudge and her great meals. She used to enjoy cooking big meals every day for those who were working at the farm. One of the boys who worked at the farm remarked that at their house they only ate this good on Sundays!

Harriet was not content unless she knew you were full. She loved cooking the things she knew were favorites of her family. She looked forward to having Roger over for lunch every day.

Harriet was also very disciplined in her cooking. Since she was a borderline diabetic she couldn’t eat sweets. She still made them and still had them around for others but would sometimes make a non-sweetened version of the same thing that she could eat. She simply willed herself to not desire sweets. When John needed to be on a special diet she made sure he followed it!

When Harriet did the dishes she always washed them by hand and she didn’t want dirty dishes laying around. And she always rinsed with scalding hot water. She felt it helped disinfect the plates.

She was an active woman.

Harriet didn’t waste a lot of time. She was always doing something. She had cards and notes to send, there were bills to pay, cleaning to do, or grass to mow. She loved her tulips and her garden. She would be content to spend all day outside working.
She was diligent about keeping a diary. She wrote down what happened on the farm, who came to visit, what she did.

She was always cleaning her house. In fact, when she went to see Michelle one time she started cleaning her house too. She cleaned so thoroughly that she dumped the potpourri out of one bowl, washed it, and then put the potpourri back in it! It didn’t matter that no one would know whether it was cleaned or not . . . it was the principle.

She was also a great person to go and visit others who were sick. Most people talk about it . . Harriet didn’t. She just did it. She’d call, stop by, or make the journey to the Hospital. Harriet didn’t visit so that others would return the favor. She did it because it was the right thing to do.

Harriet loved to travel around with Nellie. When Nellie was heading to Burlington she’d pick up Harriet. When Harriet was heading to Macomb, she would pick up Nellie. When Nellie died Marie Atkins and Harriet became companions. For the last 29 years you would generally see them together.

Generally she didn’t turn on the television during the day. She enjoyed Jeopardy and had recently gotten hooked on Hawk Eye Basketball. In fact, she had to be careful in the hospital that her heart didn’t get racing during the game! She turned in to quite a fan.

She had a great sense of humor

One of the best times of life were the family gatherings with the Williams family on Saturday nights. They had all kinds of fun. This is where Harriet would let her hair down. The family had fun initiating new members to the family with the dribble glass or the ice cube with an insect in it.

Harriet was playful. She would tease and laugh and you would often see that sly, playful smile on her face.

Harriet loved to tell jokes. I noticed that she often had trouble hearing my sermon but never seemed to have trouble hearing when I was telling a joke!

Harriet was not above doing some outrageous things just to catch people off guard. There are some great stories to tell that probably aren’t appropriate for this setting.

She was a loyal friend

One of the words that came up again and again as people remembered Harriet was the word “loyal”. She remembered your special days. She was there when you needed her. She was concerned for your struggles.

When she was so sick in the hospital several weeks back she always asked about Marie. In fact, just last week she told me that she was concerned that Marie was trying to do more than she should. For 29 years she and Marie talked every day . . . often several times a day.

Harriet was a woman who gave of herself without expecting or even desiring anything in return. She had lots of good friends because she was a good friend. And it didn’t matter how old you were. Whether it was Cassie coming over from next door or whether it was Margaret Williams who she visited every day in the Nursing home. If you were her friend, you were her friend.

She was a woman of faith

Harriet loved the Lord. She read and studied her Bible daily. She was always eager to learn. In fact several weeks back when I stopped in the hospital to visit she told me she had just finished reading a book I had just finished reading a short time before that.
Harriet loved the church. At the Disco church she sang in the choir and in a quartet with Marcia Blythe, Jane Burg and Marie Atkins.

At the Union church she served on committees, helped in the kitchen, helped send out the newsletter every month, enjoyed the Philathea Class parties and was regular in her worship. I used to enjoy having her in Bible Study on Thursday mornings. She had to stop coming because of her hearing . . . not because she was ready to stop growing.

She and Marie served as the “Sunshine Girls” at the church. It was a name given by Victor Anderson. They made it a point to see people who had recently been hospitalized. They would bring flowers, or candy, or in the case of the kids a little toy. These ladies brought sunshine wherever they went. In fact, sometimes they made me look bad. I would work to get over to see someone only to be greeted by the words, “The Sunshine Girls have already been here!”

One of her prized possessions when she was in Intensive Care was a little stuffed bear. It was given as a thank you for the kindness Harriet had shown to a child. It meant a lot to her.

Harriet was one of my greatest supporters. She would tell me when she didn’t agree with something (always in a kind manner) and I always listened. She didn’t have a lot of complaints but she was very free with her encouragement.

I went to visit her one day in the Intensive Care room. She was heading out for tests and was already loaded on the Gurney. The nurses said we could talk for a few minutes so we talked right out there by the Nurses Station! When it was time for her to go to her test I followed her to the elevator . . . but she didn’t know it.

She proceeded to tell the nurses all about me! She told them how long I had been at the church and how they could listen to me on the radio right there in Burlington. At one point I answered a question and she was startled that I was still there. She was afraid she said something inappropriate. She hadn’t. Her words were filled with affection and an enthusiasm for the church that was inspiring.

But we haven’t done justice to who Harriet was until we point out that she was committed to family

Harriet met John when they were in their late teens. They dated for five years before they decided to get married. They would have been married 60 years this June.
They were a team. Harriet was always doing something around the farm and she was good help with the hay. They loved to take vacations and bus trips. They also enjoyed just taking a drive.

These last years they were more a team than ever. When John was having physical problems Harriet was always close by. John often served as Harriet’s ears and Harriet served as John’s eyes. They modeled what marriage is supposed to be.
She was a proud mother. From the very earliest days she cherished Roger. In fact, she used to carry him around on a pillow so he wouldn’t be “jostled”. Of course . . . he was smaller then.

Harriet and John cherished Roger . . he was the light of their life. Even though he was an only child Marge reports that they did a remarkable job because he didn’t turn out to be too spoiled! Roger was the main joy of their heart . . .at least until the grandchildren came along . . . and then the great-grandchildren.

And, let me take this opportunity to comment on how Roger has honored his mother and father. The way Roger and Marge have supported John and Harriet speaks volumes about the nature of their relationship.

Harriet loved her grandchildren greatly. She was a woman always on the go . . . until they arrived. She made time to play cards, or read a story, or do something together. She loved to sing with the kids. She taught them the songs, “A good man” and “School Daze”. She sewed on buttons. Took drives in the car. And enjoyed every minute they had together. She never missed the events they were in at school, was their sure defense when they were in trouble, and was always eager for them to come over and spend the night.

Harriet loved to talk about her grandchildren even though she wouldn’t dream of “boring you with talk about my family”. She was sincerely interested in their lives. And she was enjoying being a great-grandmother as well. She and John even made it down to Bailey’s first dance recital. She loved getting pictures of the kids. She made sure they were displayed correctly and prominently.

Harriet put family first. She took her role seriously and enjoyed it fully.

And even after all these words, there is still so much unsaid. We will miss her saying, “Shoo de bed” when she was frustrated. And on those hot days we’ll miss her reporting that it was “hot as blue blazes” or as “hot as a little red wagon.”

We’ll miss her relating all those things “she told John”. We’ll miss the notes in the mail. We’ll miss her phone calls where you had to hold the phone quite a distance from your ear. I’ll miss hearing “What did He say?” during Sunday morning worship. We’ll miss that smile that seemed to make things better and her positive outlook that let you know things weren’t as bad as they seemed. But most of all, we’ll miss her. We’ll miss her joy, her spirit, and her example.

We have been blessed by her life.

As I thought about Harriet’s life one verse immediately popped into my mind. It is from the pen of the Apostle Paul as he wrote from prison: “For me, to live is Christ, to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21) It’s a verse that I think describes Harriet’s approach to living.

Harriet believed that life should be honoring to the Savior. She practiced what she preached. She didn’t want to continue living if it meant she wasn’t going to be able to do anything.

To Harriet, life was a calling from God. It was time to be invested for Him. She didn’t live life for herself. She lived her life with a focus on others. She sought to reach out with the hand of Christ. It was kind of like the time in the ICU when she was heading out for a test. She saw an opportunity to build a bridge and took that opportunity. When she saw an opportunity to extend mercy, she did so. She didn’t feel the need to quote the Bible a lot but she knew it . . . and she followed it.

Harriet didn’t always like the way the church functioned, but she was not committed to the church . . . she was committed to the Lord! For Harriet, to live was Christ.

Paul said not only that while to live is Christ, to die is gain.

To Paul, life was a prelude to something greater. Life on earth was the training ground for real life in Heaven. Paul was ready to die. He wasn’t afraid of death because it was the doorway to where he always wanted to be . . . in the arms of Jesus.

I think Harriet had a similar attitude. She was not eager to die . . . there were more things to do. But she was not afraid of death. Even when she was so close to death when she was in the hospital the first time . . . the terror that is often on the face of people in that situation was absent. And this last time she went in to the hospital she placed herself in the arms of the Lord. She told them “No respirator. If God wants me, let me go. If He’s not ready yet . . I’ll still be here.” No churning, no resistance. Just faith.

Harriet trusted Christ for her salvation. She had a firm conviction that Jesus literally rose from the dead. She knew He was the Lord of Life and she was willing to commit herself to Him.

This is what sets her death off from so many others. We mourn today . . . but it is not for Harriet . . it’s for us. Harriet is where she always wanted to be. She is re-united with family and friends . . . she is in the presence of the Lord she has served all her life. There is no reason to mourn for Harriet.

This is not denial. This is the hope we have that is anchored in the historical reality of the resurrection of Jesus and the promise of God that all who turn to Christ “will live, even though we die.”

So today, even as we mourn, we celebrate. We celebrate our blessing in having Harriet touch our lives. We celebrate the fact that she “fought the good fight, she finished the course, and she kept the faith . . . and now there is for her a crown of righteousness that comes from God Himself.”

We are not wrong to grieve. It is natural. It is appropriate. There is a void . . . a big one left in our lives. But we must not grieve like those who have no hope. This is NOT the end of the story of Harriet Crum. She lives on! And those who have a faith like hers will see her again.

In fact, I suspect if Harriet could say one thing to you it would be: “Make sure you come here too.” Because she loved her family she would not want them to miss the wonder of Heaven. I think Harriet would call us to a faith of our own. She would urge us to “get right with God”. She would challenge us to “build our life upon the rock.”

We celebrate today. We grieve today. And hopefully we learn something today.
• that life is filled with opportunities
• that little acts of kindness (like a card sent, or a visit made) are often remembered for a lifetime
• that our lifetime is a preparation for the life that is to come. The person who is not “right with God” is missing the real essence of life.
• that life is more fun if we don’t take ourselves too seriously
• it really is more fun to give than to receive
and certainly we should have learned,
• that one person CAN make a difference


Will you pray with me?

Our Father, we have been so richly blessed. We thank you for the life of Harriet Crum. We ask that you welcome her into your home and give us a measure of her spirit.

O Lord, we thank you also for Jesus Christ. Without Him and the life that He extends to all who believe, this would be a day without hope. Thank you for the promise of eternal life you give us. Lead us to that relationship with Christ that is necessary for salvation.

Lord, I pray for this family. I ask that you keep their memories sharp. I pray that their gatherings might continue to be filled with stories of Harriet.

I pray for John. Lord, stand with him in this lonely time. I pray that you provide for his needs and help him to sense your presence with Him. Help him to carry on as he continues to seek to live faithfully until that day when you call him home as well.

Grant us all your comfort and grace for we ask it in the name of Christ. Amen.

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