Remembering B.J. Hardin: Longtime Blades mayor/councilman dies at 85

BLADES — A short distance up West Fourth Street is the town of Blades’ community hub — Hardin Hall.

It bears the name of the longtime public servant who is one of the more notable figures in Blades’ history.

To some the fatherly face of Blades, B.J. Hardin, an elected town official for several decades, died Sunday, Dec. 30. He was 85.

“B.J. was a leader. He was a go-to person,” said current Blades Mayor David Ruff, who served in town government as mayor or councilman at various times with Mr. Hardin. “B.J. was well-liked in the community, among the council people and the employees of the town.”

One of those employees is Julie Chelton, former Blades town administrator who retired in September 2007.

“B.J. was a kind man. Even when he got mad at somebody, he held his temper and spoke properly. He was just so dignified as a mayor. I got along great with him. No matter what I went to him for, we collaborated and he either agreed or had comments on it,” said Ms. Chelton, who now resides in New Bern, N.C. “If he got mad at somebody, he was very cool about it and explained to them what the problem was. He was just perfect to be a mayor or somebody with authority. And he was always gracious. I can’t say enough about him. He was best person I ever worked for — a wonderful boss.”

Vikki Prettyman, whose last day with Blades in her 11-year tenure as town administrator was yesterday, Dec. 31, 2018, offered similar sentiments.

“B.J. was my mentor. He is (was) the most amazing man I have ever met. He was funny and caring. He loved his community,” said Ms. Prettyman. “The most I will take away from him was his love for his wife, Peggy. They were adorable, and he was so loving and caring towards her. Working with B.J. was effortless. He knew the value of good employees. He has been deeply missed since leaving the council in April of this year.”

State Rep. Danny Short, whose 39th District encompasses the town of Blades, Seaford’s smaller next-door neighbor on the south side of the Nanticoke River, served on Seaford city council and as mayor prior to moving to the state legislature.

“B.J. was the epitome of a gentleman,” said Rep. Short. “I was mayor when he was mayor. We were councilmen at the same time. He always joked around, and one of his things was, ‘Hey, we’ve got to work together; we share the same zip code.’ We worked together on quite a few projects. For me, the communities are joined by a bridge and a river, and when he would call over, I certainly would always take his call. He was like the father or grandfather of Blades. He was the symbol of Blades for so many years.”

“He always had what I thought was a demeanor of a gentleman. He was always focused on what he wanted to get done. He gathered the forces around him to be able to obtain what he was after. He did it in a very professional way. And he had a council that he respected and worked with,” said Rep. Short. “He was a nice guy. He was a guy that when you saw him you saw him you wanted to reach out and say, ‘How are things going with you?’ He was willing to return that.”

After more than two decades of elected service, Mr. Hardin retired, but then returned as an elected member of council. He served on council until April 2018, choosing not to seek re-election for another council term.

Mr. Hardin served 10 years on council and then 14 years as mayor, “retiring” in March of 2003. He returned to council in 2007, serving and on and off until April of this past year.

“He had a passion for helping people. That was his desire to stay in politics and things like that,” said Mayor Ruff. “He was always there. If anybody needed him, he was just a phone call away. He definitely will be missed.”

“He was the face for many years in Blades, and still is,” said Rep. Short. “He retired. They named the hall after him, and then they needed him and called him back.”

“He enjoyed public service,” said Ms. Chelton. “He was proud of Blades and wanted to make sure they took care of it the right way.”

Born in Tennessee, Mr. Hardin called Blades “home” for nearly seven decades. He was 17 when he came to Delaware.

Mr. Hardin spoke of his beloved Blades during the town’s 100th anniversary celebration in 2015.

“It’s a tight knit community. We look after each other,” said Mr. Hardin. “I am proud to be a member of this community. I’m proud to have served on the town council. I’m proud to have served as mayor. I’m just proud to be a known citizen – or unknown maybe – in this wonderful community.”

In addition to service to the town and community as an elected official, Mr. Hardin was very active in his church. He also was the town’s liaison with BEDCO (Blades Economic Development Corporation) which operates the Nanticoke River Marina in a sublease agreement with the town of Blades, which leases the marina property from the state of Delaware.

“I think the other thing I am sure everybody would probably agree on is when B.J. was focused on getting something done – for example the marina, he worked very hard with the BEDCO group, and he thought that was going to be a game-changer for Blades, which it is – he would drive forward in a very gentlemanly, forthright manner,” said Rep. Short. “He didn’t get excited. He didn’t get mad. He just drove to reach the goal and he did it in a very professional manner. I think that is a lesson that many of us can take and learn from.”

State Sen. Bryant Richardson of Seaford also has fond memories of Mr. Hardin. “Anybody that has served in the public for that long, it just has to be a passion for it. He did a very admirable job for the town of Blades over that period of time,” said Sen. Richardson.

Rep. Short remembers vividly riding with Mr. Hardin, then mayors of their respective municipalities, in an old parade car in a Christmas parade whose route crossed the bridge spanning the Nanticoke into Blades.

“The problem was …. the brakes didn’t work too good on the car,” said Rep. Short. “When we got in the car, I told B.J., ‘Why don’t you sit up front? I’ll sit in the back seat.’ We laughed. We were happy to get out of the car when the parade was over.”

Services

Services for Mr. Hardin are Saturday, Jan. 5 at St John’s United Methodist Church, Seaford (viewing is at 10 a.m., service at 11 a.m.), Ms. Prettyman said.

 

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