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Eric and Agnes Hare

Photo courtesy of Lester Devine.

Hare, Eric Burnham (1894–1982) and Agnes (Fulton) (1893–1983)

By Lester Devine

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Originally trained as a secondary history teacher, a career long Adventist educator, Lester Devine, Ed.D., has taught at elementary, secondary and higher education levels and spent more than three decades in elected educational leadership positions in two divisions of the world Church, NAD (1969-1982) and SPD (1982-2005). He completed his forty years of denominational service with a term as director of the Ellen G. White/Adventist Research Centre at Avondale University College in Australia where his life-long hobby of learning and presenting on Adventist heritage issues became his vocation. 

Eric B. Hare is well known for his stories from his missionary work in Burma from 1915 to 1934, and he served in the Sabbath School Department at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists from 1946 to 1962.

Early Life and Education

Eric Burnham Hare was the second son of Pastor Robert and Henrietta Hare, born in Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia, on October 12, 1894.1 His early education was at the Fitzroy School in Melbourne, and there he formed lifelong friendships, in particular with Roy Allan Anderson, who too would later make an enormous contribution to the work of the Church internationally as an evangelist.2

Eric Hare graduated from the missionary course at Avondale in 1911 and the biblical-academic course in 1913.3 In the summer of 1911 he began his denominational service as tentmaster for E. B. Rudge and Harold Lukens in Port Pirie, South Australia. “Brother Rudge and Brother Lukens did the preaching, and I gave the Bible studies,” he said later. “All I had to do was to sweep and dust the tent, distribute the handbills, play the organ, and lead the music.”4 At the end of 1913 he was appointed to work in the Victoria Tasmania Conference5 and joined J. W. Kent and J. H. Woods conducting a tent evangelistic campaign in Richmond.6 By June 1914 he was at the Sydney Sanitarium, enrolled in the nursing course.7 Just one year later at a special session of the Australasian Union Conference Committee held June 8–22, 1915, he was appointed as a missionary to Burma.8

On June 24, just a few days after the completion of the union council at which he had received his appointment to Burma, Eric married Agnes Fulton, daughter of the pioneer missionaries to the South Pacific and Asia, Pastor and Mrs. J. E. Fulton.9 Agnes had been born in Bishop, California, on November 9, 1893.10 Before leaving for Burma, Eric continued with his nursing course at the Sydney Sanitarium. Agnes also took a nursing course for three months.11

Missionary

The couple left Sydney on Thursday, September 23, 1915.12 After they arrived in Burma, their first two years were taken up with language study and the beginnings of their health work. Eric and Agnes proved to have an aptitude for language, both receiving more than 90 percent in their Karen examinations. In fact, the examiner told Eric that he had received the highest marks of any missionary that he had ever examined.13

A gifted musician, Eric soon established a brass band, which was a considerable novelty, attracting the interest of the people.14 Hare had visited churches across Australia and New Zealand, collecting brass instruments for the band.15 He used the band to create opportunities for evangelism and community building.16

While Eric and Agnes were in Burma, five children were born into the family. Their first child, Rosalind Agnes, died on June 23, 1917, just 19 days after her birth, and was buried in the Protestant cemetery, Rangoon, Burma.17 Shortly afterward they were visited by Agnes’ parents, Pastor and Mrs. John E. Fulton, and their daughter Jesse. Fulton was at that time the president of the Southern Asia Division. The Hares were located on the Salween River at Kamamaung in North Eastern Burma, close to the border with Siam (Thailand). Fulton described the isolation of the mission station:

The thick jungle abounds in wild animals. Last night we could hear the monkeys in one part and the little barking deer in another. Every night fires are kept burning in the shed or the mission bullockpen [check word—bullock pen?] to keep the tigers away. Tiger tracks are sometimes seen right through the mission ground, and even under the house.18

The early years in Burma were very difficult. The division secretary-treasurer, C. L Torrey, wrote after visiting the mission station in 1934:

Brother Hare reviewed to us the early beginnings of his work, and recalled how discouraged he became during the first three years of his labours at Kamamaung and in the outlying districts, struggling along during this time without a single baptism. He baptised his first convert the following year. After that the number increased year by year.19

In 1919, at the division meeting in Ranchi, India, Eric Hare was ordained to the gospel ministry. Taking part in the service was Pastor J. E. Fulton, still president of the Southern Asia Division.20 Their continuing service saw Pastor and Mrs. Hare using the training they had received at the Sydney Sanitarium. Along with Harold and Dorothy Baird, they established a number of dispensaries serving the Karen people.21

Four more children were born into the Hare family while they were in Burma: Eileen Nita (later Mrs. Ivan Higgins), Leonard, Verna Mae, and Peter.22 Eric and Agnes Hare and their children continued their outreach to the Karen until 1934, when, after more than 18 years on the banks of the Salween River, they were invited to relocate to the Northern California Conference in the United States of America, where Hare was appointed as the Missionary Volunteer and Sabbath School secretary.23 The transfer provided a much-needed opportunity for their youngest daughter, Verna Mae, to receive assistance for her severe hearing deficiency.24 They departed from Burma on April 12, 1934,25 leaving behind an established church with a membership of 122 and eight Sabbath Schools with a membership of 340.26

After some years in San Francisco, Eric was appointed as the Sabbath School secretary of the Southern California Conference in Glendale, California,27 a position he held for a short time before accepting an invitation to return to Burma in 1941.28 Eric and Agnes Hare continued their pioneering work for the Karen people, this time in Rangoon, until the Japanese bombing in 1942 forced their evacuation.29 Eric recounted the miraculous story of their evacuation from Burma.30 Having been evacuated to India by steamer from Burma, Agnes and the children waited there for Eric’s evacuation. During this time Eric Hare and some of his fellow workers made a hazardous journey to safety overland, and after many dangers and miraculous escapes he was eventually able to rejoin his wife and children, and the family returned to America.31

Back in America, Eric Hare was once again called to head the Youth Department of the Southern California Conference, and then the Sabbath School Department at the Pacific Union Conference, until in 1946, at the General Conference session, when he was called to serve as an associate secretary of the Sabbath School Department at the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.32 Shortly after Eric took this appointment, Eileen, their eldest daughter, died in a road accident at Van Horne, Texas. She; her husband, Ivan Higgins; and their two daughters were on furlough from their appointment in India when the accident occurred.33

While holding his responsibilities at the General Conference, Hare gave specific attention to the role of the Sabbath School in child development and spirituality. His work was a forerunner of the Children’s Ministries Department. His work was well received, as illustrated by an extensive visit to the Australasian Union Conference territories, arriving in August 1951.34

Eric Hare continued his work at the General Conference until his retirement in 1962.35 Eric Hare’s life came to an end in Washington, D.C., on June 1, 1982.36 Agnes lived on for nearly a year until April 25, 1983, when she died in Berrien Springs, Michigan.37

Legacy

Well known all over the world for his remarkable ability to tell character-building stories to small children, Eric B. Hare wrote 13 books and wrote and recorded hundreds of articles and stories for children.

Sources

“A cable from America . . .” Australasian Record, May 12, 1947.

“A Letter from California.” Australasian Record, November 30, 1942.

“A simple and impressive wedding . . .” Australasian Record, July 5, 1915.

“Actions Taken at the Recent Union Conference Council.” Australasian Record, July 5, 1915.

“Actions Taken by the Union Conference Council Held at Wahroonga, New South Wales, September 23 to October 3, 1913: Distribution of Labour.” Australasian Record, October 13, 1913.

“Agnes Fulton Hare obituary.” Australasian Record, July 16, 1983.

“Andrews University: Pastor Eric Hare’s Gift.” Australasian Record, November 26, 1973.

Baird, Harold. “With the Karen Brass Band.” Australasian Record, March 31, 1924.

“Brother and Sister Eric Hare . . .” Australasian Record, October 4, 1915.

“Brother Eric Hare . . .” Australasian Record, June 1, 1914.

“Brother Eric Hare . . .” Australasian Record, November 13, 1916.

“Details of Mrs. Ivan Higgins’ Death.” Australasian Record, June 9, 1947.

“Evacuation of Burma Missionaries.” Australasian Record, June 8, 1942.

“Extracts from letters written by Brother Eric Hare . . .” Australasian Record, January 10, 1916.

“Greetings from Australian Workers and Friends in America.” Australasian Record, August 11, 1941.

Hare, Eric B. Clever Queen. Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1985.

———. Curse-Proof. Boise, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2007.

———. Dr. Rabbit. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1970.

———. “From Pastor Eric Hare.” Australasian Record, April 9, 1934.

———. Fullness of Joy. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1952. [You can add Takoma Park if you want, but it needs to be Takoma Park, Washington, D.C.. The RH was never in MD until 1983.]

———. Fulton’s Footprints in Fiji. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1969.

———. Fuzzy Wuzzy Tales. Warburton, Victoria: Signs Publishing Company, 1950.

———. Jungle Heroes, and Other Stories. Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1985.

———. Jungle Stories. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1926.

———. Jungle Storyteller: The Life of Tha Myaing, Our First Ordained Karen Minister in Burma. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1967.

———. Make God First. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1986.

———. “Medical Missionary Work in Burma.” Australasian Record, June 21, 1926.

———. Skyscrapers: 365 Stories That Build You Up. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2009.

———. “The Band in the Jungle.” Australasian Record, September 8, 1975.

———. “The Brass Band in the Jungle.” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, May 18, 1970.

———. “The Happiest People in the World.” Australasian Record, November 5, 1951.

———. Those Juniors: Studies in the Art of Leading Juniors to Christ. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1946.

———. Treasure from the Haunted Pagoda. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1947.

———. “Whosoever Will May Come.” Australasian Record, October 22, 1951.

Hare, R. “Rosalind Agnes Hare obituary.” Australasian Record, August 27, 1917.

“If one had chanced . . .” Australasian Record, July 23, 1934.

“In Memoriam.” Australasian Record, June 9, 1947.

Johanson, Eric J. “Eric B. Hare obituary.” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, August 9, 1982.

———. “Life Sketch of Pastor Eric Hare.” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, July 26, 1982.

McFarlane, R. A. “First Sabbath School Institute in the Solomon Islands.” Australasian Record, November 19, 1951.

“On Wednesday morning August . . .” Australasian Record, September 17, 1951.

“Pastor Eric B. Hare . . .” Australasian Record, December 10, 1951.

“Pastor Eric Hare . . .” Australasian Record, August 27, 1923.

“Pastor Eric Hare writes from Burma . . .” Australasian Record, September 1, 1924.

“Pastor Fulton in Burma.” Australasian Record, November 19, 1917.

Rogers, Cora E. “Closing Exercises of the Australasian Missionary College.Australasian Record, November 20, 1911.

“Sad news comes . . .” Australasian Record, May 28, 1983.

Salisbury, H. R. “The Karens of Burma.” Australasian Record, November 29, 1915.

Taylor, Marion L. “Victoria’s Child Evangelism Institute.” Australasian Record, January 7, 1952.

“The account of the Karens . . .” Australasian Record, November 29, 1915.

“The Ears of the Deaf Unstopped.” Australasian Record, July 3, 1944.

“The Special Session of the Union Conference Committee.” Australasian Record, July 5, 1915.

Torrey, C. L. “Annual Meeting at Kamamaung.” Australasian Record, April 2, 1934.

Woods, J. H. “Melbourne.” Australasian Record, December 15, 1913.

“Writing to his parents . . .” Australasian Record, January 20, 1941.

Notes

  1. Eric J. Johanson, Sr., “Life Sketch of Pastor Eric Hare,” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, July 26, 1982, 13.

  2. Eric B. Hare, “The Brass Band in the Jungle,” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, May 18, 1970, 10.

  3. Cora E. Rogers, “Closing Exercises of the Australasian Missionary College,” Australasian Record, November 20, 1911, 4.

  4. Hare., “The Brass Band in the Jungle,” 10.

  5. “Actions Taken by the Union Conference Council Held at Wahroonga, New South Wales, September 23 to October 3, 1913: Distribution of Labour,” Australasian Record, October 13, 1913, 4.

  6. J. H. Woods, “Melbourne,” Australasian Record, December 15, 1913, 3.

  7. “Brother Eric Hare . . . ,”Australasian Record, June 1, 1914, 8.

  8. “The Special Session of the Union Conference Committee,” Australasian Record, July 5, 1915, 2; “Actions Taken at the Recent Union Conference Council,” Australasian Record, July 5, 1915, 3.

  9. “A simple and impressive wedding . . . ,” Australasian Record, July 5, 1915, 8.

  10. “Agnes Fulton Hare obituary,” Australasian Record, July 16, 1983, 14.

  11. Ibid.

  12. “Brother and Sister Eric Hare . . . ,” Australasian Record, October 4, 1915, 8; H. R. Salisbury, “The Karens of Burma,” Australasian Record, November 29, 1915, 3; “The account of the Karens . . . ,” Australasian Record, November 29, 1915, 7.

  13. “Brother Eric Hare . . . ,” Australasian Record, November 13, 1916, 8.

  14. “Pastor Eric Hare . . . ,” Australasian Record, August 27, 1923, 8; Harold Baird, “With the Karen Brass Band,” Australasian Record, March 31, 1924, 2.

  15. Eric B. Hare, “The Band in the Jungle,” Australasian Record, September 8, 1975, 12.

  16. “Pastor Eric Hare writes from Burma . . . ,” Australasian Record, September 1, 1924, 8.

  17. R. Hare, “Rosalind Agnes Hare obituary,” Australasian Record, August 27, 1917, 7.

  18. “Pastor Fulton in Burma,” Australasian Record, November 19, 1917, 2.

  19. C. L. Torrey, “Annual Meeting at Kamamaung,” Australasian Record, April 2, 1934, 2.

  20. Johanson., “Life Sketch.”

  21. Eric B. Hare, “Medical Missionary Work in Burma,” Australasian Record, June 21, 1926, 2.

  22. “If one had chanced . . . ,” Australasian Record, July 23, 1934, 8.

  23. Eric B. Hare, “From Pastor Eric Hare,” Australasian Record, April 9, 1934, 8.

  24. Ibid.; Johanson, “Life Sketch”; “The Ears of the Deaf Unstopped,” Australasian Record, July 3, 1944, 8.

  25. “If one had chanced . . .”

  26. Hare, “From Pastor Eric Hare . . . ”

  27. “Writing to his parents . . . ,” Australasian Record, January 20, 1941, 8.

  28. “Greetings from Australian Workers and Friends in America,” Australasian Record, August 11, 1941, 5.

  29. Johanson, “Life Sketch.”

  30. “Evacuation of Burma Missionaries,” Australasian Record, June 8, 1942, 3.

  31. Ibid.; “A Letter from California,” Australasian Record, November 30, 1942, 7.

  32. Johanson, “Life Sketch.”

  33. “A cable from America . . . ,” Australasian Record, May 12, 1947, 8; “In Memoriam,” Australasian Record, June 9, 1947, 6; “Details of Mrs. Ivan Higgins’ Death,” Australasian Record, June 9, 1947, 8.

  34. “On Wednesday morning August . . . ,” Australasian Record, September 17, 1951, 8; R. A. McFarlane, “First Sabbath School Institute in the Solomon Islands,” Australasian Record, November 19, 1951, 6; “Pastor Eric B. Hare . . . ,” Australasian Record, December 10, 1951, 8; Marion L. Taylor, “Victoria’s Child Evangelism Institute,” Australasian Record, January 7, 1952, 4–5.

  35. Johanson, “Life Sketch.”

  36. Eric J. Johanson, “Eric B. Hare obituary,” Australasian Record, August 9, 1982, 15.

  37. “Agnes Fulton Hare obituary” Australasian Record, July 16, 1983, 14; “Sad news comes . . . ,” Australasian Record, May 28, 1983, 16.

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Devine, Lester. "Hare, Eric Burnham (1894–1982) and Agnes (Fulton) (1893–1983)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 09, 2021. Accessed October 15, 2021. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=D7WZ.

Devine, Lester. "Hare, Eric Burnham (1894–1982) and Agnes (Fulton) (1893–1983)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 09, 2021. Date of access October 15, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=D7WZ.

Devine, Lester (2021, January 09). Hare, Eric Burnham (1894–1982) and Agnes (Fulton) (1893–1983). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved October 15, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=D7WZ.