PREACHER RETURNED TO VILLAGE OF HUR - Rev. Bender Began Ministry In 1956, Died In 2020 At 94

UPDATE 7/7/2020 - Reverend Harley Roscoe Bender, 94, of Staunton, Virginia passed away June 2, 2020 at his home surrounded by his family.

He was born in Webster County, West Virginia on February 6, 1926, a son of the late John Dale and Eva Mae (Fisher) Bender.

Reverend Bender was a retired United Methodist Minister with over fifty years of ministry in numerous churches in both West Virginia and Virginia. He was a WWII Army Veteran having served in Germany. Harley was a shining light of hope and faith to his family and friends, and will be greatly missed. His Christian walk of love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness was a testimony to all who knew him. "Well done thy good and faithful servant."

UPDATE 12/12/13 - The daughter of Rev. Harley Bender, Claudette Bender Wilcher of Craigsville, VA, has written saying that Rev. Bender, who is now 87, is doing well, but doesn't leave the house much. Rev. Bender started his ministry in the Village of Hur long years ago.

"I happened to see the Kerby Reunion on the Herald and it brought back some wonderful memories. Rev. Bob and Pauline Duskey and Rev. Gene Kerby (before entering ministry) were household names during our time there and continued to be great friends. Foster "Pog" Kerby was my very first "boyfriend."

"Daddy and I share memories often of times in Hur. One of my favorite people Sue Kerby is gone, but lives on in the memories of the Bender girls - the best babysitter we ever had."

"Even though now I really don't know the people, it takes me back to a simpler time and refreshes some very special memories. I especially think of the Christmas programs at the Hur Church (Mt. Olive) and don't know if we ever had any better ones."

"I heard the church in Hur has closed - so sad, but it seems that way with many of the small churches. I enjoyed that day so much when we visited and the time you took out of your day to help us relive some wonderful memories."

"Have a wonderful Christmas and very special new year.


"It was a wonderful beginning" - Rev. Harley Bender

Rev. Harley Bender returned to his roots yesterday, the beginning of his ministry with the United Methodist Church. The spry 76-year-old resident of Staunton, Virginia came to the Village of Hur in 1956 with his young wife and daughters to live in the tiny parsonage and serve as a circuit preacher.

"It was a wonderful beginning," said Bender.

"I remember Holly Kerby and (Hunkerin') Ed Cooper, coon hunting and fox chasing out on the Joker Ridge," he said. "And those great Christmas programs at Hur, with all the Kerby kids and kids in the neighborhood."

L-R: Rev. Bender, daughter Claudette Wilcher and husband,
stand on site of tiny parsonage used by circuit preachers

The Mt. Olive Church has been here about
125 years, the current structure since 1924

"The people were great to help each other," said Rev. Bender. He recalled one of the Whytsell's (on the ridge above Richardson) having a heart attack one evening, after he put his hay down. "Soon as the revival meeting at Richardson was over, we all went on the hill and put up the hay, late into the night."

Rev. Bender remembered two young boys coming to Walnut Grove to clean-up the church for a re-opening, cousins Gene and Warren "Bud" Kerby. "We swept and scrubbed the day long," he said. "We started the church back with two people attending, and in less than a year we had 45 people for services. They came from up and down the West Fork." Ray Roach came and helped cut wood for the pot-bellied stove.

Warren "Bud" Kerby retired and is living on Barnes Run, and Gene Kerby went on to become a United Methodist minister, and is now retired in Ritchie County. Another frequent church kid, said Rev. Bender, was Bob Duskey, who also became a Methodist minister.

Rev. Bender's daughter, Claudette Wilcher, a postmistress in Craigsville, Virginia, said "I always want to return to this place. I hold on to memories of some people and things that happened when we moved around with my dad's ministry." She has four sisters, Joyce, Martha, Debbie and Robin.

The Hess and Lizzie Reynolds residence (left) was next to an
early store and lodge hall, the village was connected by a board
walk, across the road was the Will Sturm house which burned in 1995

The Hollie Sturm residence, adjacent to
the "People's Store" owned by Will Sturm

Rev. Bender served what was generally called the Hur-Richardson Circuit. During his two years in 1956-58, he had seven churches, Hur, Joker, Cremo, Walnut Grove, Richardson, Stoney Point and Phillip's Run.

The Bender's were visiting the church sites yesterday. The Hur church, better known as Mt. Olive, is the only one still open, with few attendees. The Richardson Church burned to the ground several years ago at the hand of an arsonist. The rest are still standing, some used as community churches or abandoned.

Having retired from the church in 1995, he has continued to pastor rural churches in Craigsville and Goshen, Virginia. Since the death of his wife in 1995, he remarried in 1998.

The Bender family planned to travel out the Husk Ridge to the faded Village of Richardson. "We will be remembering the Husks, who were always so kind to us," they said.

The cellar house had the original Hur
Telephone Company a crank'em up technology

Down the Hur Hill toward the lone gone McCoy Store, but to the right (large tree) was Hur's original store, McCoy and McCoy about 1895