Miriam Ann (Smith) Hardy, 84, of Middlebury
MIDDLEBURY — Miriam Hardy lived a life that touched so many others. As a mother, grandmother, friend, teacher, caseworker, and tireless volunteer in church and community, her influence has been incalculable. She has added in countless ways to the goodness of the world. Mimi Hardy died on March 18, 2021 at Shard Villa in Salisbury, Vt.
Mimi was born Miriam Ann Smith on June 28, 1936, in Mineola, N.Y., the youngest child of Robert L. Smith Sr. and Miriam (Fradenburgh) Smith and little sister to brothers Bob and Bill. She grew up in the shadow of World War II, in which both her brothers served, with loving family members on Long Island and in Brooklyn. Her own mother died when she was a child, so she spent a lot of time with her grandmother, who inspired her interest in nature and music, digging clams on the beach or going to the Metropolitan Opera. She attended Mary A. Burnham School in Northampton, Mass., and spent summers, first as a camper and later as a counselor, at Camp DeWolfe on Long Island Sound, where she was given the nickname “Mimi Nature” for her love of animals and the natural world.
Mimi attended Cornell University, in beautiful Ithaca, N.Y. Her favorite classes included Russian Literature with Vladimir Nabokov and Environmental Education with Dick Fischer, which cultivated a lifelong love of books and birds and admiration for the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. She graduated in 1958 from the Martha Van Rensselaer School of Home Economics with a degree in Child Development and Teaching. After graduation, she taught elementary school in Cato-Meridian, N.Y., where she met her future husband, Robert B. Hardy Jr. She and Bob were married in Sage Chapel on the Cornell campus on June 29, 1963.
Mimi and Bob raised four children, first in Trumansburg and later in Dryden, N.Y., small towns on either side of Cayuga Lake. Mimi was a loving and adventurous mother who encouraged her children’s independence and supported their broad interests and activities, including creative writing, music, wrestling, raising farm animals, 4-H, horseback riding, basketball, academics, and social activism. In Trumansburg, Mimi was a deacon in the Presbyterian Church and instrumental in founding the first community food pantry. Later she was a member of the Lansing Methodist Church and president of the Ithaca Lions Club and active in Lions activities throughout New York State. To her children, Mimi seemed to know everyone and be involved with everything in town. She had many dear friends far and wide, and always took the time to stay in touch and lend a hand if needed. In difficult times, Mimi was the force that held her family together. She was strong and nurturing, gregarious and kind, and frequently hilarious.
Mimi taught for many years in schools around Tompkins County, N.Y., and had especially fond memories of her years as a kindergarten teacher at the Belle Sherman Elementary School in Ithaca. Her classrooms were filled with creativity and joy, and various pets, plants, and science experiments adding to the experience of her students. She paused from teaching for several years to devote herself to her growing family, but returned to the profession after working toward a master’s degree at SUNY Geneseo. She taught elementary English-as-a-Second-Language and middle school special education before pivoting her career to social services. She worked as a caseworker with the Economic Opportunity Corporation in Ithaca, driving her orange VW bus all over rural Tompkins County to visit and care for isolated clients and families. She finished her career as the program coordinator for the Tompkins County Senior Citizens Council, where she was an expert insurance counselor, events organizer, and motivator for seniors. From kindergarteners to senior citizens, Mimi’s paid and volunteer work brought joy, support, and education to so many people in the broader Ithaca area for five decades.
After retiring to Middlebury, Vt., to live near her daughter Ruth and family, Mimi continued her devotion to family, community, and faith. She volunteered regularly at her grandchildren’s school, Mary Hogan Elementary School, where she shared with students her love of birds, giraffes, nature, and reading. She was active in the Middlebury United Methodist Church, leading the Women’s Spirituality Group and assisting with the congregation’s epic rummage and bake sales. Mimi was an avid theater and opera fan, and devoted patron of the Town Hall Theater and Opera Company of Middlebury. Mimi was also a zealous Syracuse Orange basketball fan and one of her favorite events of the year was the March Madness college basketball tournament. Over the past few years, Mimi enjoyed attending Project Independence at Elderly Services, where she was an enthusiastic participant in their art and writing projects. Mimi was a poet and a prolific journalist, filling notebooks with poems and reflections up until the end of her life.
Mimi shared her interests generously and passed on her talents and passions to her children and grandchildren. To her oldest son, a poet, she passed along her love of classical music and the written word. To her younger son, a pastor, she passed along her strong and sustaining religious faith. To her daughters, a state senator and a social worker, she passed along her strong sense of social justice and belief in the strength and power of women. To all of her children, she passed along a love of nature and a deep concern for others. That her grandchildren are drawn to music, writing, teaching, activism, science, and environmentalism is proof of the exponential and lasting quality of her influence.
Mimi was preceded in death by her husband Bob and her brothers, Willard F. Smith and Robert L. Smith Jr. She is survived by her sons Robert Hardy and wife Clara of Northfield, Minn., and Reverend William James Hardy and wife Renée of Lockport, N.Y.; her daughters Senator Ruth Hardy and husband Jason Mittell of Middlebury, Vt., and Clara Hardy of North Providence, R.I.; by her dear grandchildren Will and Peter Hardy, Annina and Oliver Zheng-Hardy, and Greta, Anya, and Walter Hardy-Mittell; her beloved nieces Martha Regelman, Georgia Smith, Pat LaFontaine, and Bridget Smith, and nephews David Smith and Donald Brightsmith; and hundreds of friends in New York, Vermont, and around the country and world.
Mimi was generous in spirit, time, and resources. Her family hopes you’ll honor her by volunteering your time at a school or senior center; planting a tree or feeding the birds; reading a book from your local bookstore or library; or donating to an organization in your community whose mission Mimi would have supported. In Vermont, her family suggests the Town Hall Theater or Project Independence at Elderly Services. Mimi’s family plans an in-person celebration of her life later this year. Thank you.◊
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