Della Hardman had the soul of a West Virginian, the heart of a Vineyarder and an unparalleled curiosity for life. This weekend, the sixth annual Della Hardman Day event will celebrate what Mrs. Hardman encouraged everyone around her to do: savor the moment.
“It’s a marvelous continuing legacy and continuation of the diversity of the Vineyard community and diversity of activities she engaged in with her lifetime,” her daughter Andrea Taylor told the Gazette earlier this week. “She would be really pleased to continue that spirit in the activities that we’re having.”
Mrs. Hardman was a scholar and lifelong learner and continued to be a student well into her 80s. Ms. Taylor remembered one summer when she was in junior high when her family spent the summer in Montreal because Mrs. Hardman wanted to learn French. She received her PhD from Kent State when she was 72, and at 83, she decided to learn Portuguese as the Brazilian population on the Vineyard began to increase.
“She very much enjoyed interacting with other cultures and people,” Ms. Taylor said. “Even at the end of her life she was still acting globally.”
The Della Hardman Day celebration kicks off Friday night with a sunset concert at the East Chop Lighthouse where Jim Thomas will lead the Spirituals Choir with a tour sponsored by the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. Everyone is encouraged to bring lawn chairs. Saturday the Oak Bluffs Public Library will host the annual photography contest and exhibit, where judges Alison Shaw and Francine Kelly have selected 11 photographs for a 2011 calendar.
The main event Saturday night is a performance by actor Lou Meyers at the bandstand in Ocean Park. Mr. Meyers will perform Just a Little Bit of Somethin’, a cabaret performance of words, music and dramatic presentation. Mr. Meyers attended West Virginia State College (now University) during Mrs. Hardman’s tenure on the faculty in the art department. Mrs. Hardman was a mentor to Mr. Meyers, who instantly accepted the invitation, Ms. Taylor said.
“Everyone knows that my mother was very much a West Virginian even though she spent the last 20 years of her life on the Vineyard,” she said. “We’ve never had anyone from West Virginia to participate in the programs . . . and Lou is very thoughtful, provocative and very entertaining.”
The Saturday event will also include a reception for the winners of the annual high school essay contest in Mrs. Hardman’s name. The three top essays are published on the Commentary Page in today’s edition.
Mrs. Hardman also wrote the Oak Bluffs column for the Gazette for many years where she allowed different people and different issues to be acknowledged through her writing. It is in the heart of Oak Bluffs at Ocean Park that many of her family, friends and community members will gather to remind each other to live in the moment.
Della Hardman died in December 2005.
“The Vineyard community has just been so supportive of this event, and these kind of things often come and go, but so many contribute to its success and help in one way or another,” Ms. Taylor said. “We want people to savor the moment and appreciate the uniqueness.”
The celebration concludes on Monday when the Della Hardman prize will be among the many prizes awarded at the annual All-Island Art Show held at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs. Mrs. Hardman was also an artist, receiving her master’s in art from Boston University, where her papers are held.
“She was a busy beaver, but her spirit lives on. A lot of people tell me that,” her daughter said. “Her energy was so infectious and she was very enthusiastic about life and the Island and the arts and people; she just seems to have made an indelible impression and people continue to be very supportive.”
Ms. Taylor makes it clear this is not a memorial celebration for her mother. “It’s totally a celebration of having people pause and take time and appreciate the experiences they’re having in the moment and fully embrace those, which is what my mother did her entire life.”
Della Hardman Day begins Friday at 7 p.m. at the East Chop Light; events continue Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Oak Bluffs Library and at 4 p.m. at Ocean Park. All are welcome.