Ed Harding, longtime City manager and Retiree leader, passed away Oct. 16 in Simi Valley. He was 99.
Ed was born in 1921 in Tucson, Ariz., and moved to Los Angeles when he was a child. He began his City career in 1946 as a Clerk in the Repair Dept. of what was then Street Maintenance. (His father had also worked for the Street Maintenance Dept.) Ed retired in 1981 as the General Superintendent of Street Maintenance.
He was also prominent in the Retired Los Angeles City Employees, Inc., an association of Retired City employees. He was an RLACEI Board member for more than 30 years, and President for more than 24. While association President in 2012, he began a strategic alliance with the Club for dual membership and increased benefits for Retirees. Ed retired from his duties at RLACEI this past September.
He is survived by his wife, Martha; seven children, three step-children; 13 grandchildren; and 17 great-grandchildren.
The following is a eulogy written and delivered by Ed’s grandson, Tim Harding:
It’s impossible to sum up the life of a man who lived nearly a century, to do justice to the mark he left on this Earth, but my dad asked me to try, so I will. He asked that I share the highlights, some of the things my dad would want you all to remember about my Grandpa Ed, as well as my own thoughts on the life he lived.
My grandfather was born on May 1, 1921 in Tucson, Arizona, the only child of Clement and Julia Harding. The family moved to Los Angeles when he was a young child, being raised in the east L.A. area. He attended Roosevelt High School and was in the ROTC. During World War II, he worked in the Chrysler plant and was also in the U.S. Navy. In 1947, he began his career with the City of Los Angeles as a Supplies Clerk. This would mark the beginning of a lifelong career of service to the people of Los Angeles. His first promotion was to Mechanic’s Helper, a trade he learned from his father and further developed while an employee for Chrysler. He was promoted regularly in the Bureau of Street Maintenance, first as a Supervisor of Street Paving and ultimately as the General Superintendent in charge of Street Maintenance, Street Resurfacing and Street Cleaning for the entire City. In 1981, the year I was born, with 34 years of City Service, he retired. Now I’ve seen many people in my own workplace who step on others to elevate themselves. But during Grandpa Ed’s career, he was the guy helping others find a way forward. He helped many people, particularly minority employees, whom he helped get promoted by tutoring them, sometimes in his home, outside of work hours. On several occasions, he came to the defense of employees who were being wrongfully terminated. He was a fine role model to his children in his fair treatment to everyone, regardless of their background. He was very highly respected.
I find it interesting that he spent his career paving roads, because he, more than anyone I know, took full advantage of the sprawling streets of L.A. You see, his greatest passion was in automobiles. He owned a used car lot in the early 1950s, but this was only the beginning. Buy them, fix them, sell them, drive them. He just couldn’t get enough. He owned literally hundreds of cars from the 1930s to the 2000s. Like a kid in a toy store, he fell in love with each one. And if he couldn’t buy them all at once, he would get them all eventually, falling in love, over and over again. Spend much time with my dad and his siblings and you’ll likely hear crazy stories about growing up, most of them about a car my grandpa brought home. There was the car that got hit by a train that any sane person would let rot in a junkyard. Not Grandpa; like something out of a Mickey Mouse cartoon, he went to work rebuilding it. See, only the back half was smashed in, so he found a similar car where only the front half was wrecked and went about cutting the cars in half with a hacksaw, then welding the good parts back together.
I believe my Aunt Claudia was given her first car about a dozen times, each one given and then taken away again before she even started driving. While most of us dread seeing our teenagers behind the wheel, Grandpa saw Claudia as a wonderful excuse to accelerate his wheeling and dealing. And Grandpa was definitely the person you wanted to bring with you to the dealership to haggle with the salesman, as long as you had the stamina to spend 12 hours there and the strength to walk away if the deal, in Grandpa’s eyes, wasn’t quite right. I remember his small warehouse of old cars that I’d get to sit in as a kid, a few projects, a few gems, some of them truly one-of-a-kind. But this paled in comparison to the size of his collection in the 1960s when there were always at least 30 vintage cars in his possession. But the most remarkable thing about Grandpa was his complete knowledge of cars; he knew almost everything there was to know about each one of them. Show him a picture of any car made before 1980, and he could tell you the year, make and model of every one, no matter how small the difference from one year to the next. His love for cars was a true and complete kind of love. He saw cars as we might see a sparkling ocean or a beautiful sunset, something magnificent to behold.
He had other interests too. He was active for many years in the Rotary Club, and was a member of the Civic Center Speaker’s Club. Grandpa was a member of the Retired Los Angeles City Employees organization for more than 30 years and was president for 24 years. He was instrumental in making it an organization that City Retirees could be assured had their best interests in mind. And he loved baseball … he was a great fan of the old Pacific Coast League in the 1950s, when the minor league Los Angeles Angels was the only game in town. He then became a big Dodgers fan and would often talk about last night’s game. Think of him when the Dodgers finally bring home another title tonight. Grandpa’s favorite baseball player was clearly my cousin, J.R. He spoke in that proud fatherly way about J.R.’s exploits on the diamond, sharing newspaper clippings any chance he got. He loved every minute of it.
Grandpa leaves behind his wife Martha; seven children, Claudia, Dennis, Bill, Betty, Patrick, Lauretta, and Julie; three step-children, Robert, Mario and Richard; 13 grandchildren; and 17 great-grandchildren. He was greatly loved by them all and he will be sorely missed.
I’ve had the honor now of giving a eulogy at both of my grandfathers’ funerals. My Opa was an electrician, Grandpa Ed fixed the roads. One made a path and the other lit the way. And that’s how I see the legacy left by these great men, not literally in their professional lives, but in their treatment of others, in their kindness and humor, in their care for their families, and in the love they showed as evidenced by the cloud of witnesses here today. They have set a lasting example for me, a well-lit path for me to follow. The book of Matthew says, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” I have found it because God blessed me with examples to look up to and with family to turn to. We are saddened at this immense loss today, but more than that, I feel something else.
I, for one, am grateful.
The Club sends its condolences to all of Ed’s
family and friends, and his former colleagues in the City and the RLACEI.
May he rest in peace.