GREENFIELD — They brought the whole show together: from middle school music classes to community choir concerts.
Janette Hardy and Penny Hicks were the behind-the-curtain forces that helped create so many local musical productions; preferring to let others stand in the spotlight, sometimes leading someone to center stage to help them achieve their full potential, friends said.
That spotlight will be a little dimmer now, they said.
Hardy and Hicks, both veterans of the Greenfield-Central Schools music department, died within days of each other after long-fought battles with cancer.
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Hardy was a music teacher at Maxwell Middle School and an accompanist for the high school band and chorus programs, as well as the local community choir. Hicks served as the high school’s music secretary for 16 years, handling all the administrative duties for the department and serving as a listening ear to hundreds of young musicians.
Hardy, 72, died at her New Palestine home May 10, leaving behind two sons, seven grandchildren, four step-grandchildren and a husband, Lee, of nearly 48 years.
Hicks, 63, died Monday. She’s survived by three children and 11 grandchildren.
For the hundreds who called them mentors and friends, the countless former students whose lives they touched, it has been a tough few days, said Mary Evers, the choir director at Greenfield-Central High School.
Hardy was the one who could get anyone to sing, to just give a try and see that they’d love it; Hicks always was there when that same youngster got discouraged, to listen to their frustrations and encourage them to try again, Evers said.
Both so fun, so faithful; so patient and understanding, she said.
Angela Hardy, wife to Hardy’s son, Jeff, said her mother-in-law had a gift for helping people discover their self-confidence. Her friends — even friends of friends — were her family, and she never stopped encouraging people to do what made them joyful.
Janette Hardy was one of the first female band directors to work in her home state of Minnesota before she and her husband moved to Greenfield. She served as a substitute teacher for Greenfield-Central and Southern Hancock schools for many years, taught private piano lessons in her home and began teaching at Maxwell Middle School in 2002.
A cancer diagnosis took her from the classroom in 2006, but she kept playing whenever she could, volunteering to accompany the Greenfield Community Choir and its high school counterpart.
Her death wasn’t a shock to her family; Janette Hardy’s battle with various forms of cancer spanned a decade, and she decided to forgo treatment in recent years.
But in the days before she died, she seemed more herself than she had in years, Angela Hardy said. Now, those who loved her most are holding onto fond memories of the bright smile and the sense of humor she showed in her last days.
Hicks’ courage also brought her friends comfort; she fought a hard battle with brain cancer in recent years but faced her prognosis with strength and heart, said Jerry Bell, who was the band director for years while Hicks’ children were students at Greenfield-Central. The pair became close friends while working together in the high school music department.
“I knew she was really at peace with all of it, and it helped me to accept what was coming,” Bell said.“It seemed everybody she touched was impressed with her demeanor and her genuineness and sharing her faith.”
Hicks’ positive attitude and faith will be remembered by her friends and former coworkers, said Dave Poncar, band director at Greenfield Intermediate School, who knew Hicks for two decades.
The woman was eternally optimistic, Poncar said.
“She was always positive, always finding the best in people, trying to have a positive outlook on things,” he said. “ A lot of times, we were grumpy or in the dumps, and she was the one who could cheer us up.”
Penny Hicks funeral arrangements:
Visitation is 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday at Erlewein Mortuary, 1484 West U.S. 40. A funeral service will be held 2 p.m. Monday with the Rev. Chris Braschler officiating. Burial will follow at Park Cemetery in Greenfield.
Memorial contributions can be made to American Cancer Society, P.O. Box 22718, Oklahoma City, OK, 73123-1718; or the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, 26 Broadway, 14th Floor, New York, NY, 10004. Mourners are also asked to donate blood.
Janette Hardy funeral arrangements:
Visitation is to 2 p.m. Saturday with a memorial service immediately following at New Palestine United Church, 15 E. Main St., New Palestine.
Memorial contributions can be made in Janette’s name to the New Palestine United Church, to the American Cancer Society or to the Greenfield Community Choir Scholarship Fund.