Many who grew up in local public schools — before and after desegregation — knew 33rd Avenue High School graduate Margaret Elizabeth Harden as a disciplinarian and motivator. She was a teacher for more than than three decades.
Others knew her through St. Paul AME Church, where she was a friendly, yet competitive fundraiser, known to sit on the second row on Sundays and say “Amen” when she agreed with the pastor’s preaching.
Still others in Gaston Point knew her as a pleasant neighbor who for years had taken walks with her husband Nathaniel and their dog and shared conversations with those she saw.
Harden had a favorite response when someone greeted her: “I’m Margaret Elizabeth Mack Harden, blessed by the best 24-7,” recalled Lois Hawthorne, also a retired teacher and a friend of 60 years.
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“She was a wonderful lady, very pleasant and always smiled,” Hawthorne said. “She never criticized anybody.”
Harden died Sunday at the age of 83. She had been a church stewardess, Sunday School superintendent, teacher, choir member and class leader. She had remained active at church until the past year or so, Hawthorne said.
The Rev. James Palmer, her former pastor at St. Paul, said Harden was “a loving, kind, impressive lady who was always smiling and willing to help.”
He remembers meeting Harden when he came to lead the church and learned she enjoyed being a fundraiser.
She was a great teacher and she was firm on discipline. She did not tolerate no type of mess, foolishness or nothing. She is the reason I turned out like I did.
Kenneth ‘Truck’ Casey, former student and Gulfport Ward 1 councilman
“She told me you’re not going to come here as our pastor and raise more money than I do,” Palmer recalled with a laugh.
“If I had $1,000, she had $100,100,” Palmer said.
Gulfport City Councilman Kenneth “Truck” Casey, Ward 1, credits Harden with shaping him into the man he is today.
“She was a great teacher and she was firm on discipline,” Casey said. “She did not tolerate no type of mess, foolishness or nothing. She is the reason I turned out like I did. She helped me along the way and I learned at an early age to focus on education and be disciplined.”
Harden’s only child, Sherida Harden, lives in Gulfport.
Harden was born in 1933 and was a school teacher for 33 years. After graduating from 33rd Avenue High, she earned a bachelor’s degree from Alcorn A.M. College and a master’s degree in education from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg.
She began her teaching career in Collins and retired from the Gulfport School District in 1990. Earlier in her career, she taught at her high school alma mater.
“She tutored struggling students after school well after retirement,” Hawthorne said.
“She and I had a long, long, long, wonderful friendship.”
Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Paul.