In 1917, the year Mary Hardy was born, Woodrow Wilson was in the White House, women in the United States hadn’t officially been given the right to vote and most residents of Madison County didn’t have electricity in their homes. Hardy, the daughter of Frank and Daris Hill, was born on the family farm in Ruth on Aug. 22, 1917 and celebrated her 102nd birthday last Thursday at the Culpeper Health and Rehabilitation Center.
Born in Madison County, Hardy lived there until her teen years when she moved to the Washington D.C. area where she attended and graduated from Cardozo High School. Even as a child, Hardy enjoyed cooking and eventually went to work for a large Washington catering company for over 30 years before moving back to Madison County where she raised her six children.
Hardy reflected on turning 102 and some of the changes she has seen in the area during her lifetime.
“I’m blessed to be here celebrating,” she said. “The downside is I’ve outlived so many of my friends. Things here have really changed a lot. I remember my father used a horse and buggy. Route 29 changed Madison, too. It has gotten busier and there’s way more traffic. In Ruth though, there hasn’t been as much change.”
Hardy isn’t the first in her family to break the 100-year mark. Her aunt lived to 103 and her mother came close, passing a few months shy of 100. Married twice, Hardy has outlived both her husbands and continues to be an inspiration to her six children and their offspring.
Hardy’s nephew, Michael Jackson said that his aunt had a great influence on him growing up.
“She took me in, every summer,” said Jackson. “She has such a big heart and took me in as one of her own. When I got older, I would help her with the catering and I learned so much. I have the best memories of being there every summer.”
Hardy’s son Caroll Frederick echoed the sentiment.
“Momma is very kind and caring,” said Frederick. “Growing up we always had extra kids. There was always a houseful of cousins, friends and extended family.”
Kindness and love are two of the things Hardy credited for having enjoyed a long life.
“My advice is to eat well and be good,” said Hardy. “Be kind and love everyone. It’s helped me to have a good life.”