Thelma Wanita Coen Harkness, born July 3, 1913, passed away peacefully on June 23, 2017, at the age of 103 in her home in Garden City, Kansas, with her family by her side. She was born the second of five children to Edna Morrison Coen and Frank S. Coen in rural Finney County. She was the beloved wife of the late Claude W. Harkness for nearly 66 years.
Thelma spent her early years in a small house on the open prairie several miles north of Garden City and later on a farm ten miles northeast of the city. She had many anecdotes and stories about growing up in rural western Kansas at a time when most people were still using horses. Many of her narratives involved the sense of harmonious participation that was notable among the community of that time.
Thelma witnessed the rise of the automobile and the widespread use of tractors in farming. In 1926, she started high school in Garden City and graduated in 1931. During that time, she “worked at Woolworth’s for one dollar on Saturdays and thirty-five cents a day on weekdays after school.” Upon graduation, she enrolled in Junior College and later met her future husband.
The two wed in 1933 and purchased their long-time home in Garden City in 1937. While Thelma cared for their two young children, Claude worked as an independent trucker throughout their early years until he enlisted and was inducted into the Marines in 1944.
After the war, Thelma and Claude purchased some land near Towner, Colorado, and became farmers. The early years of this endeavor saw much austerity – an old, abandoned homestead was recommissioned, water was hauled in from 18 miles away and an abundance of hard work was required to survive and prosper. During this time a third child was born. Many fulfilling years followed filled with life’s ups and downs and the couple retired in 1973.
In retirement, Thelma and Claude spent time travelling around the world and visiting their cabin in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Westcliffe, Colorado, until Claude passed in 1999. She continued to visit her beloved cabin until recently and resided in her home of 80 years in Garden City until her passing.
Thelma will be remembered for her strong personality, wit, charm and her love of family. She was a member of Sorosis and enjoyed socializing and dancing at the Elks Club and American Legion.
She is survived by her three children, Errol W. (Cheryl) of Franklin, North Carolina, Sharen L. (Harold) of Bridgewater, New Jersey and Gregory K. (Marcie) of Towner, Colorado, 11 grandchildren, 24 great-grandchildren and 5 great-great-grandchildren. She also leaves behind numerous loving relatives and friends including special nephew Reg Gray and family and her devoted caregivers under the guidance of Janie Duran.
Graveside Service will be held at 10:30 AM Monday at Valley View Cemetery in Garden City with Jeff Crist, officiating. Memorials are suggested to the Make A Wish Foundation in care of Garnand Funeral Home. Condolences may be posted at www.garnandfuneralhomes.com.
Garnand Funeral Home 412 North 7th Garden City, Kansas 67846 620-276-3219