Hundreds of Yukoners crammed into the Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre on Sunday to bid farewell to Todd Hardy, MLA for Whitehorse Centre, who succumbed last week to his four-year fight with leukemia at the age of 53.
As a karate instructor, hockey coach, carpenter and New Democratic Party politician, Hardy touched many lives, as was evident by the crowd that filled the room, the hallways and spilled outside. Vehicles lined up down the block.
It was an uncommon service for an uncommon man.
At it, Hardy’s daughter Janelle performed an interpretive dance to Elizabeth Bishop’s poem One Art.
Before, she offered a wry explanation: her father was “always pulling the dying-man card” and had requested she perform the piece - the last he was to see at the Yukon Arts Centre - once more at his parting gathering.
That Hardy lasted as long as he did - doctors gave him several weeks to live in February - amazed many and amused himself.
When he defied all expectations and took his seat in the legislature this spring, he would later chuckle other MLAs reacted “as if he had risen from the dead,” said friend Heather MacFadgen.
Hardy credited the support he received from friends and family, said Rod Snow, another close friend.
“He said he could do the hard work of dying because he was surrounded by good people. In the end, it was all about love.”
Hardy was an unlikely breed: part firebrand socialist, part tranquil Buddhist. His spiritual beliefs bled into his political ones: on the legislature floor he would frequently appeal to his fellow MLAs to rise above partisan politics to work together for the common good.
To the NDP’s Steve Cardiff, who knew Hardy for more than 20 years, this was no different than the counselling Hardy would offer kids in a hockey scrap.
“We all need to learn from each other a better way of working together. I think that was the lesson Todd was trying to teach.”
Hardy could be uncompromising, and the NDP’s ranks shrank under his leadership. Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell recalls sitting down with Hardy once. “He pounded the table and said: ‘I want it to be clear: I’m not a social democrat, I’m a democratic socialist.’ He saw a big distinction there.
“But I don’t think anyone ever doubted his sincerity or the integrity of his purpose,” said Mitchell. “He had passion and compassion. You put the two together and it’s pretty powerful.”
And Hardy had the ear of the man who mattered under this majority government.
Premier Dennis Fentie, who once shared the NDP’s backbenches with Hardy, continued to have an amiable relationship with Hardy after forming government.
“My memories of Todd are all fond ones,” said Fentie. “He never allowed politics to taint personal, human relations.”
This relationship likely helped Hardy win government support of NDP initiatives. Yukon’s Smoke-Free Places Act, the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act and ongoing discussions to reform how territorial legislators do business are all initiatives that bear his fingerprints.
Hardy’s casket was built by his sons. He left the building in it, carried by his friends and family, as the crowd sang Amazing Grace. He was later cremated.
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