Christmas is different this year.

by francine Hardaway on December 23, 2003

Christmas is different this year. Yes, we�ve got the tree and the lights and the family together. We�re frantic, and crowded, as usual. The dog bit another dog, the washing machine overflowed and flooded the hardwood floor, and we�ve all gained some weight.

But the biggest difference between this and every other Christmas is that we no longer have John Hardaway, the father of my two daughters, with us.

Although John and I were divorced in 1980, he remained my co-parent and my dear friend. We often celebrated the childrens� birthdays, graduations, Thanksgiving, and Christmas together. Three years ago, when he was first diagnosed with the illness that finally felled him, I showed up at the hospital as soon as he was admitted. When he recovered and went on to marry his long-time girlfriend and build a home in Payson, I was overjoyed.

But suddenly, over Thanksgiving, he had a recurrence of the disease and immediately began to fail. By Sunday of Thanksigiving week-end, he had passed. We still can�t believe he�s not with us. The girls are devastated.

John was a gentle man, an intellectual, a spectacular father, a lifelong devotee of the English language. He was a Mark Twain scholar, and shared Twain�s sophisticated, ironic sense of humor, even though he didn�t share Twain�s bitterness: �one of the proofs of the immortality of the soul is that myriads have believed it. They also believed the world was flat.� That�s Twain, not John. John�s Mark Twain was the guy who wrote, �To be good is noble, but to show others how to be good is nobler, and no trouble.� That�s what John did: he not only provided an example of goodness, but devoted his life to teaching � showing others how to be good.
He was a Professor of English and Chairman of the English Department at Phoenix College for over forty years. He hired me when I first came to Arizona, sight unseen from my diminutive resume. And he never lost his faith in me as a person, even when I went down paths he didn�t wish to follow.
He sired my two wonderful daughters, and then he took up the role of primary parent. He took them to the dentist, the library, and the dancing lessons when I was too busy with my business. He saved every piece of correspondence they sent him, even the notes they wrote their schoolfriends in fifth grade. He taught them to play tennis, to read, and to love language. He treated them like little treasures, applauding their smallest accomplishments.
�It is a wise child that knows its own father, and an unusual one that unreservedly approves of him,� Twain said. John�s children knew him well, because he allowed himself to be known to them. And they unreservedly approved of him, because there was nothing to disapprove of; he lived a virtuous and generous life, fulfilling all obligations and sharing his love with them every day.
The girls will miss him terribly.

Generations of students, including those he taught at Phoenix Union, Alhambra and Central High Schools, enjoyed his wry sense of humor and patient manner as they learned from him about linguistics, rhetoric, and random Mark Twain anecdotes.

In memory of John, his love of learning and his devotion to teaching, his family has established The John M. Hardaway Scholarship Fund, to be awarded to a high potential Phoenix College student majoring in English.

Phoenix College, where John taught classes year-round and in the evenings, is a community college offering over 200 degree and certificate programs to students who might not otherwise be able to afford an advanced education.

I�m not a person who often asks for help. But this year, as you contemplate Christmas and the pleasures of family, please think of my daughters and their loss, and help them honor their dad by contributing to the John M. Hardaway Scholarship Fund at Phoenix College, Office of Alumni and Development, 1202 W. Thomas Road, Phoenix, AZ 85013. We need to raise money to get the scholarship going. Your tax-deductible donation will help.

Many thanks for your good wishes, and Season�s Greetings from our home to yours.

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