CAPE PORPOISE, MAINE — Karen Harder, 66, of Cape Porpoise, Maine, passed away peacefully on Thursday, Jan. 8, 2004, at Southern Maine Medical Center following a brief illness.

She is survived by her sister, Janneke Disbrow of Winthrop, Mass.; her husband, Jon of Cape Porpoise, Maine; as well as her two sons, Erik Mueller-Harder of Cabot, Vt., and Christian Harder of Randolph, Mass.; and six grandchildren.

Karen with Clara & Timothy1

Born in Tampa, Fla., in 1937, she was the daughter of Jean Cooper Disbrow and William C. Disbrow III. Karen moved to Massachusetts in 1948. A graduate of Thayer Academy in Braintree, Mass., she attended Kalamazoo College in Michigan before completing the executive secretarial course at Katharine Gibbs School in Boston. She was secretary to the dean of the Harvard Law School, where she met her husband, Jon, an undergraduate. They were married in 1960 in Cohasset, Mass., and went directly to California for his assignment as an officer in the Navy’s Pacific Fleet. During his ship deployments to Asia, Karen worked as secretary to Erwin Canham and the editorial staff of The Christian Science Monitor in Boston. A skillful editor of books and publications, she worked with authors of architectural, environmental, and historical works, as well as preparing a casebook in constitutional law for Dean Erwin Griswold at Harvard.

During her husband’s service as a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force, Karen was active in support of ministries in San Antonio, Texas, Clark Air Base, Philippines, and Denver, Colorado. After their return to Massachusetts in 1972, she was an active member of First Church of Christ, Scientist, Concord, Mass., and continued in editorial work from home.

From 1983 to 1987, the Harders lived in Salzburg, Austria. During this time they worked together in field assignments throughout Europe. As a fluent speaker of German, Karen’s talents in ministry blossomed during her work with First Church of Christ, Scientist, Salzburg. She was superintendent of its Sunday School and a reader in worship services. In 1985, she entered the public practice of Christian Science healing. Special church assignments in pre-revolutionary Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, and East Germany gave her much enjoyment. In 1985, the Harders traveled together throughout east Asia to conduct supportive meetings for groups of churches in Thailand, the mountain provinces of the Philippines, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, and Guam.

Following their return to the U.S. from Austria in 1987, Karen continued her healing ministry in the Providence, Rhode Island area. She participated directly with her husband’s lecturing on spiritual healing in 13 countries, including Germany, France, Spain, the Scandinavian countries, and Latvia, and brought direct support to many through her gentle presence. In 1999 at the end of Jon’s term as President of The First Church of Christ, Scientist (The Mother Church) in Boston, the Harders built their home overlooking the Batson River marsh in Cape Porpoise, Maine. Besides her continued healing ministry, Karen was able at last to be active in support of conservation and environmental causes. She had campaigned successfully to help prevent destruction of critical environmental spaces in Barrington, R.I., and earlier in Concord, Mass.

An avid birder since the age of ten, she was an enthusiastic volunteer with the bird banders at Laudholm Farm of the Wells Reserve. She monitored and cared for nest boxes for Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, and was never happier than when seeing a new family of eastern bluebirds or black-capped chickadees fledge and fly at the marsh she loved so much. She was awarded a Certificate of Achievement for establishing a unique wildlife mini-refuge by The National Wildlife Federation, and was a member of the Maine and National Audubon Societies, the American Birding Association, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Birdhouse Network and Project Feederwatch.

A private family gathering was held in celebration of Karen’s life and work.

Donations in her memory may be sent to:

Laudholm Trust
P.O. Box 1007
Wells, ME 04090

or to:

The Center for Wildlife
P.O. Box 620
Cape Neddick, ME 03902

Arrangements are by Dennett, Craig & Pate Funeral Home, 365 Main St., Saco, Maine.


  1. Karen with Clara & Timothy