St Thomas – Passing of Pioneer Marjorie Harmer

History Corner
by Pat Paccassi

Marjorie Harmer: 1971,  2006

This past December has seen the passing of one of the earliest pioneers remaining in the area of the Leeward, Windward and Virgin Islands. As she was the first Auxiliary Board Member for St. Lucia, which was included in the Leeward, Windward and Virgin Islands, it seems only fitting that something should be told of the Harmers story, as it is upon the efforts of the early Bahá’ís that our Bahá’í Community foundation is based.

Marjorie and Ellerton Harmer arrived from the United States as pioneers in January 1956, and both are buried at their post in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. Ellerton passed away on 22 March 2004 and Marjorie, 19 December 2006. Only Charles and Mary Dayton who arrived in the Virgin Islands in 1954, and consequently were named Knights of Bahá’u’lláh for the Leeward Islands, arrived before them and they stayed at their post until 1968.

The early days were those of “seed-sowing” and it was not until 1961 that the first believer was enrolled. His name was Knud Jensen. He became a Baha’i at the Harmer’s home, in St. Thomas, his Father of Danish origin, and his mother was a St. Thomian. But earlier, in January 1957, they had been comforted and confirmed by a message from the Guardian of the Faith, Shoghi Effendi stating: “acknowledge letter from group and contribution to International Fund” In this message, the Guardian called the Daytons and Harmers heralds of the Faith, ‘You are heralds of the Faith in that land..’
letter written on behalf of Guardian (signed by Leroy Ioas)”

In 1963, there were 7 listed as believers on St. Thomas. In April, 1964, the First Local Spiritual Assembly of the Virgin Islands was formed by joint declaration: Ellerton & Marjory Harmer, Charles & Mary Dayton, William Dickerson, Mr. Jean La Mothe, Douglas Covey, Knud Jensen, and Tom Shoemaker. There were two St. Thomians on this Assembly.

As other pioneers and travel teachers arrived to help with the Bahá’í work, teaching was done in all of the islands of the Leeward, Windward and Virgin Islands. The Faith was then considered by the Universal House of Justice to be ready to form the first National Spiritual Assembly of the Leeward, Windward and Virgin Islands. It was formed with 9 delegates from following areas: Grenada, St. George’s, 1; St. John’s, 1; Guadeloupe 2.
Virgin Islands: Christensted, St. Croix 2; St. Thomas, 3.

In April of 1967, this National Assembly was elected, with Ellerton Harmer on it as the Treasurer, in which capacity he served for several years.

In August, 1968, Marjorie Harmer was appointed as the first Auxiliary Board Member for Propagation for the Leeward, Windward and Virgin Islands & Puerto Rico by first Board of Continental Board of Counsellors. Later on she also served at the level of National Spiritual Assembly.

It is not possible to recap 50 years of devoted, dedicated and constant service to the Faith in a short article. But from a personal point of view, Frank and I remember the Harmers as “spiritual parents” helping us into the Pioneering field. They picked you up at the airport, helping you to find what you needed, shopping; steering you to good mechanics, hair cutting salons, best prices for various items, and what ever else you asked of them. Ellerton was always the first one called when help was needed and he always responded cheerfully. We can pray for them and we are sure they pray for us.

The Universal House of Justice sent the following message after her passing:

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT

Bahá’í World Centre • P.O. Box 155 • 31001 Haifa, Israel
Tel: 972 (4) 835 8358 • Fax: 972 (4) 835 8280 • Email: secretariat@bwc.org

20 December 2006
Transmitted by email: nsa@vi.bahai.org
The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the Virgin Islands

Dear Bahá’í Friends,
The Universal House of Justice has received your email letter of 19 December 2006 and shares your sense of loss in the passing of much-loved Marjorie Harmer. The unswerving loyalty and indefatigable services to the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh of this devoted pioneer to the Virgin Islands over a period of five decades were invaluable in advancing the interests of the Faith she loved.

You may be assured of the heartfelt prayers of the House of Justice in the Holy Shrines for the progress of her noble soul in all of the divine worlds and for the comfort and solace of her family.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
Department of the Secretariat

cc: International Teaching Centre
Counsellor Ehsanollah Hemmat