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By Carmen Ensinger
Funeral processions usually stop traffic – out of respect for the bereaved. But it isn’t very often that traffic stops, pulls out their phones and starts recording the processional. However, that is exactly what happened with the funeral of White Hall resident Don Hardy on Dec. 17 who traveled from Airsman Hires Funeral Home in White Hall to White Hall Cemetery via a Harley Davidson funeral coach.
Hardy, 60, died on Dec. 14 from complications of double pneumonia. He had owned Hardy Construction for more than 40 years.
Hardy’s daughter, Candi Hester, said that other than his family, the one thing he loved most was motorcycles.
“My dad loved his bikes – he built them, he worked on them and he helped his friends with them – that was his whole life,” she said. “Before he got sick, he used to ride them all the time and go to swap meets.”
Hardy beat prostate and bladder cancer three years ago, but seven weeks prior to his death he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.
“He had lost like 30 pounds in three months and the doctors thought he just had a kidney infection because of the stint he had in his kidney from the bladder cancer,” Hester said. “Then, he got really sick and couldn’t swallow anything hardly at all and mom took him to the hospital and that is when they told him he had esophageal cancer and he went downhill really fast.”
Because he couldn’t swallow, Hardy had to have a feeding tube.
“He liked to eat ice chips and they think that caused him to aspirate it in his lungs and that is why he got the double pneumonia which eventually killed him,” Hester said.
But while he was in the hospital, they had a talk.
“I had a friend of mine whose father also loved motorcycles and when he died they had this Harley hearse at his funeral,” Hester said. “I was telling my dad about it and he was like that was pretty cool and he liked the idea.”
Once he had passed and the family were making the arrangements, Hester remembered the Harley hearse. The hearse is owned by Staab Funeral Home in Springfield. It is a 2013 Harley Davidson pulling a customized funeral coach which carries the coffin.
“My dad wasn’t like a really religious guy or anything, but he did believe in God,” Hester said. “I just know my dad would have wanted that and that was the only way we could picture him going out.”
Hardy was a member of several different motorcycle clubs throughout the years, including ABATE so after his passing, Hester contacted the members of these clubs and asked them to join in the funeral procession with their motorcycles.
“It was so cold that day that we didn’t know if half the bikes would start because bikes have a hard time starting when it is cold, but we ended up having a pretty good turnout,” Hester said. “Someone said they counted like 20 cars pulled over recording and taking pictures. I know a lot of people were saying how dad’s hearse was the talk of the town.”
Hester said it was their final tribute to him.
“I think he would have been really proud of it,” she said. “He was a man of very few words, but he would have loved it – we know that much. It was our final tribute to him – we wanted him to have his last ride in.”