(Memorial Service at Faith UCC – New Braunfels on April 13th at 2pm)
Benny was a long time member of Faith UCC and and before that First Protestant, when it was a UCC church. He came to the U.S., via the Netherlands, from Indonesia as part of the Church World Service Refugee program after WWII. Benny was very active in the church both locally and in the conference. He did much to help make Eden Hill Communities what it is today. He led a fascinating life. We recently celebrated his 95th birthday in Baese Hall. His memorial service will be held at Faith UCC on Saturday, April 13th at 2 p.m. There will be a reception in the fellowship hall after the service.
Benny will be greatly missed. We will miss his stories and his smile and we remember his great service to this community and the United Church of Christ.
Grace and Peace, Pastor Scott
Bernhard (Bennie) Harst, 95, died peacefully at home, surrounded by his large extended family. He is survived by his partner, Dawn Horten; six sons, Bart, Rudi, John, Tom, Arnold and Paul and their families; a sister, Desiree Lewis Harst, of The Hague, Netherlands and a host of nieces, nephews and friends throughout the Netherlands, England, Germany and Belgium.
He was born in Jakarta, on the island of Java in what is now Indonesia on January 28, 1924. He was raised in the pre-WWII colonial Dutch culture, as was his late wife of 54 years, Nell Velt Harst (Nelly) who preceded him in death in 2002. They lived on the islands until the family moved to the Netherlands in 1951 after the Indonesian Revolution changed his life in many ways. In 1957 the family emigrated to their adopted hometown of New Braunfels, sponsored by the late Rev. Carl and Della Burkle of First Protestant United Church of Christ (UCC).
Bennie Harst lived a large life that touched the lives of many with his wisdom, curiosity, love and countless acts of kindness. He was a man of deep faith that translated into a life of service and good works; Bennie was committed to improving his community with simple and direct actions.
Upon arrival in New Braunfels, Bennie accepted the only employment available at the time as a floor sweeper in the local textile mill and simultaneously as the part time janitor at the church. Within a year he was promoted at the mill to operate two weaving loom alleys, at a time when most weavers were only responsible for one alley of looms.
In 1964, because of his Dutch health care administration office experience, the late Elmo Fischer employed him to assist with the increasing bookkeeping demands at the Eden Home for the Aged. Later he became the Texas state licensed assistant administrator for Kenneth Triesh at Eden, a position he held until his retirement in 1989. As assistant administrator at the Eden Home, he oversaw the evolution of the institution into the region’s first skilled nursing care facility, and later added the first Medicare certified rehabilitation center, Bihl Rehab Center. He took particular pride in building the independent living cottages at Eden Home; fittingly, he would live his final years in independence and dignity in these cottages.
He worked for many years with River Garden, a life skills school for special needs adults. Bennie’s volunteer service included work at the New Braunfels Food Bank and the Comal County Senior Citizens Thrift Store. During the youth of his six sons, Bennie led inspiring Sunday School classes at First Protestant UCC. In any setting, Bennie was an irrepressible story-teller; his circular narratives, twisting from humor to pathos, crisscrossed Texas, Northern Europe, South East Asia in tales that wound through his unique experience of the twentieth century.
Along with visits to children and grandchildren around the US, his love of travel took him to Mexico exploring the people and the culture as well as return visits to Indonesia and the Netherlands.
He will be missed by the many who knew and loved him, including his faith community, fellow residents of Eden Hill, and his Thursday morning taco group at Nopalitos cafe.
A memorial service will be held at 2:00pm on Saturday, April 13, 2019, at Faith United Church of Christ in New Braunfels. In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to the Faith United Church.