Reverend George P. Harjes, 86, formerly of Central Illinois, made his celestial journey in the first hour of the morning on Friday, November 22, 2013. An only child George was born to Peirce Harjes, a graduate of The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and Maude Harjes on July 23, 1927 “in Times Square in the heart of Manhattan,” as George liked to boast, having maintained a lifelong love affair with his natal city. George attended high school in Poughkeepsie, New York, excelling in sports and academics. He went on to double-major in Political Science and History at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, receiving top honors, then went on to obtain a Master of Divinity from Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois where he met his future wife, also an only child, Mabel Anne Ashmore, literally spinning her and sweeping her off her feet at a school dance, as he had been an Arthur Murray dance instructor while in college. George and Mabel Anne were partners in the truest denotation of the word: where one left off, the other took over. Rev. Harjes believed in the social gospel as a United Methodist minister for more than forty years in the Central Illinois Conference (now the Illinois Great Rivers Conference). In his ministries George demonstrated a fervent passion and love for those marginalized by society. He inspired his congregations to “extend a hand up to those in need; to be a light in the heart of the community for the community,” and said often, “The church is not a club or museum, but an action center with its arms extended for every person.” Throughout his ministry Rev. Harjes developed programs to assist those in need. In the early 1970s he and Mabel Anne began in the church basement of Kumler United Methodist Church in Springfield, Illinois what has become known as Kumler Outreach Ministries, a program which now reaches thousands of families in the community with its food pantry, clothing room and other aids. While at Kumler Rev. Harjes fostered programs such as a daily Meals on Wheels for seniors and an after school reading program to aid struggling children. Rev. Harjes was a volunteer and led steering committees for charities such as United Way, ILLCAAP and Dove, Inc. He promoted and organized annual CROP walks for hunger, attended meetings with local government officials, or stood toe to toe with workers as they picketed their factory for less than adequate safety standards, and was an intermediary in their negotiations. For more than forty years he organized and led biennial youth and adult trips to New York City, taking groups not only to the well-known attractions of Manhattan, but to various churches whereby the participants would explore ways they could reach out to their communities. To the end of his life Rev. Harjes had a keen knowledge of history and maintained an avid interest in government and politics and the news. He enjoyed sports, was a Cardinals fan, and could play a competitive game of tennis, baseball or golf. He was a faithful servant to his Master, a devoted husband, a loving father, and was a passionate advocate and disciple of Christ. George followed his Master’s example and gave of himself with the servant mind. He never sought recognition or positions of high prestige, yet in every aspect he was a pioneer and respected leader. George will be remembered for his intelligence; his good sense of humor and awful puns; his dancing skills; his love of big band era music; his interest in travel, geography and maps; most importantly, he will be remembered for his belief that all humankind is worthy and entitled to a fair chance. George’s family and friends will miss his presence and larger than life personality. Rev. Harjes is survived by his beloved wife of 62 years, the Rev. Mabel Anne Harjes; his son, Peter, and daughter-in-law, Laurie; his grandchildren, Joshua, Kaleigh and Breanna, all of Springfield, Illinois; and his two daughters, Susanne Harjes and Shirley Harjes, of Lawrenceville, Georgia. A memorial service will be held for Rev. Harjes in the sanctuary of First United Methodist Church in Lawrenceville on Tuesday, November 26th, at 4:00pm. In lieu of gifts or flowers contributions may be made to Kumler Outreach Ministries, 303 North Grand Avenue, Springfield, Illinois 62702; or to Grace Arbor (a ministry for seniors with memory impairment), First United Methodist Church of Lawrenceville, 395 West Crogan Street, Lawrenceville, Georgia 30046.

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  1. Sincere condolences for your loss. I hope your memories and God’s loving resurrection promise will comfort you during this sad time.

  2. George was a uniquely wonderful person. He was learned, witty, generous, and caring to all that he met. I cherish each moment that I had working with him at Grace Arbor. He was an excellent dance partner and had a great appreciation for music. I loved him like my own father and he will surely be missed. My sympathies to the family. ~Cindy McDonald

  3. George in his younger days enjoyed playing baseball. His position was first base. He was a life long fan of the St. Louis Cardinals. We had many conversations about baseball. I read an article about Stan Musical and I gave George a copy of the article. I think he appreciated receiving and reading the article. Woody Allen

  4. George in his younger days enjoyed playing baseball. His position was first base. He was a life long fan of the St. Louis Cardinals. We had many conversations about baseball. I read an article about Stan Musical and I gave George a copy of the article. I think he appreciated receiving and reading the article. Woody Allen

  5. George was a good and faithful servant of Jesus Christ. His focus was always on the less fortunate persons of the community. He was a great colleague and set a high example of a meaningful life style for one serving in the ministry. It was always a joy to consider hims a good friend.

  6. George was a moving force in Decatur Illinois. He served as the pastor of the St Paul’s United Methodist Church, and was active in the spiritual and social leadership of that troubled City. He served there for 11 years,and help to organize several ecumenical activities. Though the St Paul church has closed, it is now reopened as a vibrant, integrated congregation. This was always a goal that George held for his church. He will be missed by all of us who attempted to follow his ministry and continue the work he loved so well. My condolences go out to Mabel Ann, and to all the family. We all praise God for the gift of the servant shared with us for a time.

  7. He will always be remebered for reaching people for Christ- helping the poor- no matter where he lived
    He opened the eyes and minds of youth at Kumler by letting us see the world
    We will always remember his humor
    He will be missed but will enjoy his rich reward

  8. Rev. Harjes will be missed. He led many to not only believe in Jesus but to serve The Lord as well. I know my mom Barbara Morris enjoyed working and serving along side him at Kumler. I bowled with him at strike and spare in the men’s league, and remembering one of his puns, there was a clock there on the wall, it was set inside a tire, Rev. Harjes said the time seemed really tired.

  9. We were shocked and saddened by the passing of our dear friend George. Our condolences to Mabel Anne, Peter, Suzanne and Shirley. So many pleasant memories of George, impossible to list them all. The many years he served at Kumler turned that church around. When Kathy became the Director of Kumler Neighborhood Ministries, George was a source of inspiration, strength and guidance. He was a sounding board for ideas and a shoulder to cry on when necessary. He will be greatly missed but always fondly remembered.

  10. George and his family did so much for the Winhold family. We have fond memories of them at Kumler George and Mable Ann were great with the youth they loved them very much. George took them on some pretty long trips. New York, Washington, Nashville and others He was a good organizer. Our daughter Evelyn enjoyed the times with Shirley and Susanne. It was a little dangerous when they got together. We all enjoyed the talents and leadership of Mable Ann’s music. George, thank you so much for the things you have done for us and for Kumler. George be good up there and don’t cause any trouble, the Lord might send you back. We’ll take you. We love you, George. Lloyd and Dorothy and Family

  11. Rev. Harjes had a phenomenal effect on the youth of Kumler UMC in Springfield, Il. For an assignment, I interviewed him back then (1970s). One of the questions I asked was what part of being a minister he found the most difficult. I was shocked with his answer, the youth activities. This was an area at which he excelled! Youth trips all across the country, with activities meticulously timed to the minute.
    He set an example of true ecumenical faith. Our confirmation class visited other denominations to learn about their beliefs. Later, when we were married, he and Fr. Cassidy co-officiated our wedding at Blessed Sacrament Church. His spirit of pure faith in Jesus Christ no matter what label is used, has become ingrained in my own faith.
    We were truly blessed by his presence in our lives.

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