My Dad passed away last week. On Saturday, my Aunt called to ask if I would write the obituary. “I just can’t,” she said through tears. I agreed to do it.
My Dad was a journalist and a writer. As a child, I went with him on a couple photo shoots and article assignments to various farms in Central Illinois. When I learned to drive, I loved going over to his office where he was a self-employed freelance writer and called himself, “The Wordsmith.” I think my Dad was happiest in those years he worked for himself. Years later, when I started my own writing business, I understood that happiness of being able to have a little more control over your work.
So, when I sat down to write his obituary, I immediately felt Dad at my shoulder. He had his regular glass of Scotch over ice, and I could hear him saying, “We’re going to have to cut the words here. Let’s get this right.”
And I had to push him away. “I got it!” I heard myself saying to my ghost Dad. “I can do it!”
Both my parents were journalists, and I spent an awful lot of time arguing with Mom over how high school papers should be written and edited. I don’t remember having the same discussions with Dad, but apparently in the spirit world, he has gotten a little more vocal about how I should write things–especially his obituary.
I wasn’t sure how I would feel about writing his obituary. But, once I started, I realized I was writing a character sketch, and those I am very good at writing. I called my Aunt for his early life details. I called my Mom for his working career details. Mom and I Googled the names of things such as the Hearst Scholarship and the name of the newspaper in Campaign-Urbana in the 1970′s.
But, when I sent the obituary to the funeral home, and my Aunt called me. “It’s going to be $650.”
I gasped. “Send it back to me,” I said. “I’ll edit it!”
I put my editors hat on and it was no different than any article or short story I’ve written that has to be edited to a word count. I tightened. I edited. I deleted. But I kept the essence the same. My Dad was a character and I wanted that character to shine through.
I emailed my brother and sister. “Obituaries seem to cost a lot these days.”
“We can help,” They both said.
And so I sent the obituary back to the funeral home, edited, but still with the same essence.
And although I don’t drink Scotch on ice, I raised my coffee to Dad and said, “I think we did it.”
I heard Dad say, “I knew you could.”
Charles (Chuck) T. Hardwick Jr. died on May 30, 2013. Chuck was born April 21, 1943 in Washington, D.C. Chuck’s father was career Navy and Chuck lived in Gitmo Bay, Cuba, Yokosuka, Japan and Naples, Italy. Chuck’s favorite childhood accomplishment was climbing Mt. Fuji and graduated from Fort Sherman High School in Naples, Italy.
Chuck graduated from the University of Missouri, School of Journalism on a Hearst Scholarship. He served four years in the Air Force at Scott Air Force Base at Bellevue, Illinois and Westover at Chicopee, Massachusetts. Chuck worked as a reporter for the Wichita Eagle and Beacon Newspaper and the Courier in Champagne-Urbana where he specialized in covering the Chicago Board of Trade. He worked for the communications department for the University of Illinois, Department of Agriculture as well as in public relations at The Soybean Association in Creve Coeur, Missouri, and Ralston Purina in St Louis. Chuck loved his freelance writing business, The Word Smith, in Kirkwood, Missouri.
Chuck was a resident of Kirkwood for fifteen-years and a room mother at Keysor Elementary School for his youngest daughter. Often calling himself, Mr. Mom, Chuck could be found smoking his pipe and walking the family dog, Smudge, around Kirkwood high school. Chuck loved to play board games with his children, pop black popcorn and watch mid-west summer storms roll in.
Chuck worked for nine years as a family court mediator at the Community Mediation Center in Norfolk. He enjoyed writing his memoirs and taking classes at the Muse Writers Center. Chuck always had a new kitchen gadget and enjoyed cooking in his various croc. pots. His humor and resilient spirit will be missed by his family and friends.
Chuck is survived by his mother, Mildred May Barton of Norfolk, Virginia, his sister, Shannon E. Hardwick of Chesapeake, Virginia, his brother, James Hardwick of Virginia Beach, Virginia and three children: Melinda Hardwick, Thomas Hardwick, and Rebecca Hardwick. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The Muse Writers Center, Norfolk, Virginia.