Rodney Carl Harding was born to Warren Willard and Lois Earlene (Brant) Harding on December 6, 1949, in Portland, Oregon. He was the second child of five. In the fall of 1958, the family moved from Portland to an 80-acre ranch in Sandy, Oregon where he was raised. He graduated from Sandy Union High School in 1968 and spent two years at Oregon State University and Mount Hood Community College before being drafted to military service. During his time at Oregon State University, Rod met his future wife, Karen George, through mutual friends. He served in the United States Army and completed Special Forces training as a Green Beret. In 1972, he left the military service due to the death of his father to return home and care for the family ranch and business. He and Karen married on June 16, 1973, in Grants Pass, Oregon. They spent the next four years traveling around the Northwest building their rock drilling business. In 1976, they settled in Rainier, Oregon, and discovered Rod’s grandfather had been born there and Rod had many relatives in the surrounding community. They were blessed with two daughters, Jaime (1977) and Christine (1979). Rod and Karen ran their rock drilling business, Harding & Daughters, Inc. for nearly 50 years before retiring in 2020.
Coming from a long line of educators, Rod was passionate about the education of children and served on the Rainier School Board for 29 years. He had chaired his final school board meeting two days before his death.
He had an adventurous spirit and loved being outdoors. In his early years, he was a licensed intermediate parachutist and had completed over 60 jumps. He earned a private pilot license with an Instrument Rating and commercial certificate, spending many hours flying parts and crew to job sites or exploring new horizons. He enjoyed spending time on horses and elk hunting with family and friends. There were many elk hunting trips by horseback to Idaho’s Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness over the years. Rod had honed his skills as an expert trap shooter and enjoyed trap shooting with friends at the Vancouver, Camas, and Rainier Trap Clubs. He was thrilled when his granddaughter, Riley, expressed interest in becoming a member of the Rainier Jr/Sr High School Trap Team. In his retirement, fishing became a calling to him and Captain Jerry Underwood and Co-captain, Riley, were making that happen. Riley would coach Grandpa Rod on “reeling them in.” He drew immense joy mentoring others, whether it was about the fundamentals of running a rock drill or teaching youth the basics of hunter safety and trap shooting.
In 2017 and 2019, Rod led a delegation of educators and students representing Rainier High School and the United States to China. He was revered by the people of China and had the opportunity to host them in Rainier. He and Karen learned to travel the world with dear friends with the first venture to South America, then to Indonesia, and Australia. They recently enjoyed an extended vacation in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico with friends. They were set to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary on June 16, 2023.
Rod is survived by his wife, Karen, and two daughters, Jaime (Erik) Aanensen, and Christine (Jim) Usher, and one granddaughter, Riley Ann Underwood. He is also survived by a brother, Warren Ralph Harding; brother-in-law, Keith (Lynn) George; and numerous nieces and nephews. Rod was preceded in death by his parents, Warren and Lois; his brothers, Malvin and Douglas; and his sister, Debra.
There will be a celebration of life service on Saturday, July 8, 2023, at 1 pm at the family home in Rainier, Oregon. Please contact a family member for the address. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Rainier Jr/Sr High School Trap Team, 28170 Old Rainier Road or the Rainier Oregon Historical Museum (ROHM), P.O. Box 762 in Rod’s honor.