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Columbia Missourian

Winifred Cook Harmston loved helping friends

By Ben Nadler
March 1, 2012 | 9:04 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Winifred Cook Harmston loved to drive “elderly ladies” to do their errands when, in her late 80s and 90s, she could still drive and some of her younger friends couldn’t.

“She loved helping people,” Winifred’s daughter Linda Dahl said.    

Winifred Cook Harmston of Columbia died Monday, Feb. 27, 2012. She was 96.

She was born on Oct. 2, 1915, in Rigby, Idaho, to David Earnest and Cloe Ireta Cook. She married Floyd K. Harmston on Dec. 18, 1941, in Logan, Utah.

Mrs. Harmston was born in a log cabin with a sod roof that her mother threw flower seeds on in the spring to make the house look pretty. She moved with her family to Syracuse, Utah, at the age of 1 and grew up there with her parents and five siblings, Dahl said. 

She taught herself to drive a car one day in high school, when her father announced that he needed her to run into town to get him a few things. After only a few brief instructions, she took off alone, driving down the dirt and gravel roads most commonly used as horse paths, while her father continued his business at the house.   

After high school, Mrs. Harmston traveled to the East Coast on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1935 to 1937. Her favorite part of the mission was spending summer months in Atlantic City, N.J., where she could cool off in the surf and stroll the boardwalk eating ice cream, Dahl said.

During World War II, Mrs. Harmston worked as a riveter in the aircraft industry. When her husband left to serve in the Army, Mrs. Harmston moved back to Syracuse where she taught third grade, Dahl said.

Mrs. Harmston worked in education for many years, also teaching in Laramie, Wyo. 

She later moved to Columbia where she taught special education and adult literacy programs and worked in the library of Stephens College until her retirement. 

Mrs. Harmston most enjoyed the time that she got to spend with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She loved traveling, crocheting and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Mrs. Harmston is survived by her daughter, Linda Dahl and her husband, Jens, of Brown Mills, N.J.; three sons, Paul Harmston and his wife, Barbara, of Leavenworth, Kan., Karl Harmston and his wife, Cheryl, of Moberly and Eric Harmston and his wife, Maralyn, of Rigby, Idaho; a daughter-in-law Verla Harmston; a sister, Nelva Hansen, and her husband, Wendell, of Salt Lake City, Utah; two brothers, Lawrence Harmston and his wife, LaDean, of Idaho Falls, Idaho, and Charles Harmston, and his wife, Margaret, of Mesa, Ariz.; 18 grandchildren; 52 great-grandchildren; 1 great-great-granddaughter; and numerous nieces and nephews. 

Her husband, Floyd K. Harmston, a professor emeritus at MU; sisters, Fanny Marie Cook, June Cook Briggs and Louise Cook Simpson; a brother, Lawrence Cook; and a granddaughter, Heather Suzanne Harmston, died earlier.

Visitation will be held from noon to 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Memorial Park Funeral Home, 1217 Business Loop 70 W., with services to follow at 2 p.m.

Memorial donations can be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105 or the Alzheimer’s Association, P.O. Box 96011, Washington, D.C. 20090.

Tributes can be posted at