Stories of a Graduate Long Ago – Don Hardenbrook

Author: David Davolt
Published on: June 17, 2021

Don Hardenbrook is the son of Boise Bible College founder, Orin Hardenbrook. Don will turn 95 in September of 2021. He has lived a full life and served God with patience and perseverance for almost all those years.

We have only a few past students who can remember the early days of Boise Bible College, and Don has an interesting perspective as the son of the founder. The Hardenbrook family traveled up and down the west coast as Don grew up. Before Orin became an evangelist, he worked in the lumber business and went where the job called him. It meant uprooting the family many times. When Orin came face-to-face with Jesus, he accepted him totally and with a short trip to San Jose Bible College found himself preaching in evangelistic services and traveling just as before, only with the purpose of saving souls this time.

When World War II broke out, Don joined the U.S. Navy like thousands of young men and served until the war ended. He is full of stories of serving behind the Japanese lines in China. His group was called SACO (the Sino-American Cooperative Organization). They flew over the “Hump,” the name given by Allied pilots to the eastern end of the Himalayan Mountains. They flew military transport aircraft from India to China to resupply the Chinese war effort of Chiang Kai-shek and the units of the United States Army Air Forces based in China. The flight was very risky and over 500 planes and crews were lost during the efforts. His group of about 200 men and officers made it over the top.

Don’s main job was to cut railroad rails to derail the Japanese train engines and supply cars bringing needed supplies to use against the US and Chinese troops. He would use some “new” plastic explosives; needless to say, it was both tricky and risky but he and his companions proved it was possible. They were instrumental in slowing the advancement of the Japanese troops. An afternoon with Don could provide many stories.

On July 26, 1945, the USA, Great Britain, and China issued an ultimatum for Japan’s unconditional surrender and just peace. The Japanese war leaders refused to surrender, so the new atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, bringing an end to the war with Japan. To which Don responded, “Praise the Lord!”  Just over a month later, in September, Boise Bible College had our beginning.

Don served in the Navy until he was 21 and then came by Navy Ship to Long Beach, CA. He hitchhiked to Boise, Idaho, where his folks lived at the time. His dad was serving as the first president of Boise Bible College. Don signed on to the GI Bill to attend classes at Boise Bible College.  Like several of our early students, he was not a recent high school graduate. As a young man, he had experienced a terrible war and came home wanting to make the world a better place. He recalls the classes being held in the basement of the church building at 18th & Eastman and the challenge of his professors to know God’s Word.  He married and started a family while attending classes. Soon he was preaching at a local church and found his class time-limited as he was taking care of the church and his growing family. Don sang in traveling music groups and was a strong recruiter for others to attend Bible College.

It took Don many years to complete his degree. He remembers one of the final classes that he needed to finally graduate was a class with Kenny Beckman and he was the only student. It was a class from Psalms and his assignment was to write a Sunday School Lesson from each of the 150 Psalms! He recalls it took much time, but in the end, the project filled him with joy and material for a lifetime of teaching AND he passed the class. He graduated officially in 1965 with a BSL degree. In his class were Rick Deighton, Vernon Landreth, Don Campbell, and Eddie Saunders. (It might be noted that all but Don were at the recent Alumni Gathering in May of 2021). Two of Don’s children attended Boise Bible, Joe (Jody) graduated in 1982 with a BA. His other children went to Puget Sound College of the Bible. His boys have all spent time serving churches.

Life After Boise Bible College

Don has spent his lifetime serving in ministries in Idaho, Canada, and Washington.  He has spent most of his time in smaller churches often watching God grow them through his efforts. He spent many summers speaking at youth and family camps throughout the west and he was a popular speaker for youth rallies. The writer can remember both camps and youth rallies where Don’s preaching brought him and others to important decisions in our walk with the Lord.  For a time, he served as the Development Director for Puget Sound College of the Bible. He has never been afraid to present the gospel in group settings or to encourage individuals to walk closer to Jesus.

One of his long-ago talents was as a fastpitch softball pitcher. He was known in his Navy days as a tough one to hit against and was known to keep church league teams to very few, if any, hits during a game. He had a hard-to-follow curveball and sometimes a pitch would mysteriously drop as you tried to hit it. Don was always ready during a game to make his faith known.

As Don approached retirement years he stayed busy helping in churches as he was needed. He never lost the travel bug and would take mostly senior church members on trips that usually coincided with the World Convention of Christian Churches. They went to places like Brisbane, Queensland, Australia in 2000, and Brighton, England in 2004. The Convention takes place every four years and if he was up to it, he would be planning a trip to Warsaw, Poland in 2022!

Today Don lives in Weiser, Idaho with his wife Jo.  They both lost their spouses of many years, several years ago. They have been great companions for each other in their later years. At 95 Don still reads his Bible, attends church, and is willing to help others as he can. He and his family provide the $2,000 “Hardenbrook Family Scholarship” each year specifically for a non-traditional family man, attending Boise Bible College with a desire to serve the church.

Don states that “My years in the ministry has caused me to pray often that Boise Bible College would continue to prepare preachers and Bible educated students for the great work of leading in many, many Churches in the United States and overseas as well.”

Don and Jo are regular supporters of Boise Bible College in both their prayers and donations. Thank you Don for a lifetime of sharing God’s love with others!