July 23, 1927 ~ November 22, 2013
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.