William Webster Harden, 84, helped build first Liberty vessel as shipyard worker

February 09, 1997|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

William Webster Harden, who as a young Bethlehem Steel shipyard worker helped lay out the lines of the nation's first Liberty ship, died Feb. 2 of complications from emphysema at Carroll County General Hospital.

He was 84 and lived in Westminster.

Mr. Harden began his shipbuilding career in 1933 at Bethlehem's Key Highway yards.

In 1941, he helped lay out the body lines of the Patrick Henry, the nation's first Liberty ship.

During World War II, he worked on the construction of hundreds of Liberty ships, including the John Brown, now moored in Canton, and one of two of the class still afloat.

"They worked closely with the ships' architects and made the templates from which the steel plates were cut," said a son, Robert S. Harden of Towson.

During the 1960s, he was a project supervisor and on-site representative of Bethlehem Steel in Japanese and German shipyards where midsections for Great Lakes tankers were being made. He was training supervisor at the time of his retirement in 1978.

Mr. Harden later volunteered at the Carroll County Historical Society and was a General Educational Development instructor in mathematics and English for Carroll's public schools.

He was an active member of Westminster United Methodist Church, where he and his wife of 60 years, the former Helen Marie Smith, volunteered in the soup kitchen.

Mr. Harden, formerly of Howard Park, was born in Baltimore and raised on a Reisterstown farm and in Forest Park, where he graduated from high school in 1931.

In addition to his wife and son, he is survived by another son, the Rev. William R. Harden of Westminster; a brother, Fred Harden ** of Shrewsbury, Pa.; six grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Services were held Wednesday.

Pub Date: 2/09/97

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