Della Hardman Day is actually a three-day affair. This is fitting for an event honoring a woman who said, when she retired to the Vineyard, “I didn’t plan to come here and sit. I planned to be involved.”
She wasn’t kidding around.
After a three-decade career as a professor of art at West Virginia State College, Mrs. Hardman continued to teach and create art on the Vineyard, was a member of numerous boards, including Featherstone, the VNA and the Oak Bluffs library, and wrote the Oak Bluffs town column for the Gazette. She also earned a doctorate at the age of 72, writing her thesis in the East Chop Lighthouse. But perhaps her greatest legacy, as all who knew her will attest, was bringing people together.
“I feel like I’ve lost a sister,” Henry Louis Gates Jr. told the Boston Globe upon her death in 2005. Mr. Gates will be the featured speaker at Saturday’s activities at Ocean Park. Past speakers have included Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Patricia Williams and the poet Sonia Sanchez.
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the event, and perhaps the true testament to its namesake is that the weekend has become both a celebration of Della and has transcended her. For three days every summer, on the last weekend of July, crowds of people come together in her honor to teach and be taught, to be inspired and, to use Della’s favorite phrase, savor the moment.
And if one is inclined to pause and think, darn, if only every day could be this full and genuine, well, don’t let Della catch you whining. As she told the Gazette, “I hear people complain, but I don’t have time to do that. Make every minute count, because you’re not promised anything.”
For Della every day was full, and by her actions and good nature, she taught everyone else to think this was possible, too.
On Sunday, the festivities wind down at the East Chop Lighthouse. If you listen closely, amid the speeches and the concert by the Jim Thomas spirituals choir, you might still be able to hear the tap, tap, tapping of Della at the typewriter, still at work savoring another moment.