Tom Harder has significant historical connections with Hillsboro. His great-great-grandfather Johann Harder was one of the original settlers of the Gnadenau village just south of Hillsboro, having come from the Ukraine by ship in 1874. Johann is buried in the Gnadenau cemetery two miles south on Indigo Road (as are both Tom’s parents, Leland and Bertha). Tom’s great-grandfather David Harder was one of the early faculty members at Tabor College (and is buried in the cemetery on D Street). Tom’s grandfather Menno also taught at Tabor, while his grandmother Katherine had a beauty shop in town.
Tom grew up in Elkhart, Indiana, where both of his parents taught at the Mennonite seminary. He attended Bethel College (as did his parents and older brother John), majoring in music. His plan was to teach music at a major university, and to that end earned a master’s and doctorate in classical guitar performance. But God had other plans.
Tom and Lois met at Camp Friedenswald in Michigan (a very important place in both of their lives), had their wedding there, and two of their three daughters were born there. After serving six years as coprogram directors of the camp, they moved to Wichita in the fall of 1996, where they began serving as copastors at the Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church. During that time, they both earned their Master of Divinity degrees from AMBS (2006). They resigned just this past August after twenty-two years at the church.
Tom and Lois continue to perform together as a duo, but unfortunately their family band (“Five Times Harder”) is at least three times harder to get together, as all three daughters have now left home. Meanwhile, Tom feels very much at home in pastoral ministry.
Sue (Railsback) Buchholz is a third generation Californian who grew up on a fruit farm near Fresno. She went to college in Eugene, Oregon and then Spokane Washington where she graduated from Whitworth College in Elementary Music Education.
She raised three children, two boys and a girl, and worked part-time in children’s ministry in several churches before teaching in public school. Arriving in Hillsboro, she studied special education through Tabor College and ACCK, teaching special education with the McPherson and Marion County Special Education Cooperatives for about 20 years.
Retiring from education, she worked 2 years at Bethesda Home in Goessel in food service as she cared for her husband, DeVerne, before becoming secretary at FMC.