Ella Marie Harkness, 87, of East Canton, finally got the call from her friend and savior, Lord Jesus, on the evening of June 25, 2020. Nobody saw for certain, but it is suspected that the two left the Bradford County Manor on cross-country skis.
Marie was born in Canton, PA on April 22, 1933, the daughter of Clarence and Erma (Taylor) Metzger. She loved her childhood home in North Union where she learned the devoted work ethic of a farm family. For all of her life, she would find comfort on the field paths and mountain roads of that community: walking, skiing, or driving in the evening to look for deer.
After graduating from Canton High School in 1951, Marie moved to York, PA where she worked as a secretary and file clerk for an office of the Department of Defense. She came home to Canton to marry Art Harkness in October 1952 and returned to the work of a farm family but now in East Canton. In addition to raising her four children, Marie worked as a teacher’s aide at Canton Elementary and on and off as a childcare giver from her home.
The East Canton United Methodist Church remained an important presence in her life. Throughout the years, Marie taught Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, attended Bible studies, trained as a lay pastor, helped with church suppers, hosted Valentine’s Day tea parties, and for many years made sure the sanctuary had fresh flower arrangements for the Sunday service. Marie was often the first to invite newcomers over for supper or for a Sunday picnic.
Sometime in the winter of 1976, Marie strapped on a pair of old kids’ skis from Sears, and with one ski pole and one broom handle, she pushed off into a life-altering obsession with cross-country skiing. (The word obsession is not used lightly.) The equipment became more state-of-the-art, and the excursions branched to uncountable locations in Bradford, Sullivan, and Tioga Counties. Spotting that pink ski jacket out on a field of white became a familiar sight to community members.
Spotting pink became a theme connected to Marie. She wore pink. She painted nearly every unmoving thing pink, and her humongous flower garden was filled with shades of pink. Gardening became the other obsession. She eagerly joined in the generous spirit of her Canton Garden Club friends sharing and receiving perennials.
The exception to pink was the purple and red reserved for meetings of The Ruby Rascals, the local Red Hats’ Chapter which she so enjoyed. Marie was also a former member of The Daughters of the American Revolution and was active with the Bradford County Library Book Club. Art and she were also decades-long members of the North Union Grange.
In June 2018, Marie was honored by Rekindle the Spirit for her many years of service. From the organization’s initial purchase of the Manley-Bohlayer Farm, Marie was busy in the flower beds at “Franklin’s,” as she typically referred to the property. She had a knack of making sure that others were busy in the flower beds, too. She was a successful recruiter.
Marie skied for the last time in January 2018 on the family farm at age 84. Uncharacteristically, she wore a black ski jacket that day. The gardening didn’t slow much until September 2018 when she suffered several falls resulting in hospitalization. A fractured spine and increasing dementia necessitated Marie’s move to the Bradford County Manor. Upon physical recovery, Marie enjoyed outings with her sisters and visits home to weed flower beds, sit on the swing, and hold great grandchildren.
Marie is survived by her husband, Art, the patient man who followed directions well for 67 years, sister (partner in crime) and brother-in-law Audrey and Charles Brackman of Blandon, PA; sister Norma Nichols of East Smithfield, PA, sister Linda Pepper of West Franklin, PA; and sister-in-law Viola Metzger of North Union. Marie’s four children, who she taught to shop the clearance racks first, include Arthur Jr. Harkness of Milford, NH; Ruby (Jim) Sosa of Pembroke, ME; Clayton (Sally) Harkness of East Canton; and Cassi (Wim) Ney of York, PA. The cherished grandchildren are Kyle (Rosie) Harkness of East Canton; Zachary (Debbie) Harkness of Hamilton, NJ; Sebastiaan Ney of York, PA; Quinn (Brendan) Pancott of Spring City, PA; and Taylor (Brittany) Harkness of East Canton, PA. Marie’s most recent joys were her 5 great grandchildren: Hayden, Rory, Olivia, Lincoln, Ethan, with two more on the way. She was preceded in death by her parents and beloved brother, Bruce.
The family invites friends and relatives to join them on Friday, July 3rd from 1-2:30 pm for visiting and light refreshments at the East Canton Church, 5793 Rte. 414, Canton, PA. (Feel free to bring lawn chairs to social distance in the shade.) The memorial service and celebration of Marie’s life will begin at 2:30 pm, with the Reverend Michele Somerville officiating. In maintaining to the CDC policies, please abide by all social distancing and wearing masks when attending.
Interment will be in the North Union Cemetery, North Union, PA at the convenience of the family. Donations may be made in Marie’s honor to the East Canton Church and the Green Free Library. Flowers, especially from personal gardens, are welcome.
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