My cousin attended a prospective student meeting at Tulane and told me about the answer to a question someone asked a current student there concerning what traditions, quirks, and other strange things occurred on the Tulane campus.
The girl who answered told the students about some lady who's, like, a hundred years old or so who pushes a cart around and attends as many classes as she possibly can, or something to that effect.
"Sounds kinda weird," my cousin the New Yorker said.
"Actually, I think we know that lady," I said. "She used to attend our synagogue. She even came to our wedding," I blurted out without thinking, getting the strangest look from my cousin. He wouldn't have remembered her presence, as he was only an elementary-school kid at the time who was convinced that he and a cousin of mine on my mom's side of the family (that he'd just met) had been separated at birth somehow...but she was there. In one of our wedding pictures, she is standing in front of our ketubah - our marriage contract - and reading it with great interest. My grandparents and parents made sure she got a ride home that night.
She lived around the corner from me nine years ago and attended services and Torah study regularly at my synagogue. The lady was deaf as a post and couldn't sign or read lips, so the only way to communicate with her was to sit patiently with a pen and paper and write your responses to what she loudly said in conversation. I learned that Mrs. Hardy had traveled a great deal, that she lived alone, that she enjoyed seeing everyone grow and change through the years, getting married, having children...and I would see her dressed to the nines daily walking briskly with a cane all the way from St Charles and Prytania to Tulane University as I traveled down St Charles to work. When she learned that Dan and I were going to take a month traveling in Spain and Portugal on our honeymoon, she brought over an electric teapot with the correct kind of adapter on it for European outlets - she'd loved the Costa del Sol when she'd been there (especially Torremolinos) and assumed we'd be staying in one place for a while and would need some way to cook.
In April of the next year, we moved to Queens and stayed for four years. When we got news of the Federal Flood shortly after 8-29-05, one of the first people I did my best to check up on was Mrs. Hardy. Someone on the West Coast saw my post on nola.com about her and a TTY conversation resulted, in which I had to admit to the deaf caller who was sincerely trying to help that she probably wouldn't avail herself of any help available to the hearing-impaired; she just wasn't that kind of person. Mrs. Hardy was a soul who was an adventurer true to her name - there was an innate trust in her of the goodness in people, as well as a willingness to engage everyone as best she could: through conversations with pen, paper, and some loud talk. It was a profound relief to see her again at my synagogue when we moved back to New Orleans six months after the storm and the flood, and she took great joy in seeing that Dan and I had a son who was running around and doing his little guy doings.
Problem is, time was proving to be harsh on her. She didn't live close to St Charles and Prytania anymore, so we saw her less frequently at services and Torah study. She pushed a cart around for balance just as much as for convenience in carrying stuff....and even though she kept going to classes, there were signs that her mind was not as sharp as it used to be.
I learned through Twitter last week that Mrs. Martha Hardy, aka, the adventurous one, the world traveler, the perpetual student, the Granny Cart-Lady, and "Sophie Newcomb" had passed away on December 9th at the age of ninety-one.
Zichron l'vracha, as they say in my tradition...may her memory forever be for a blessing.
Update, 12-16: Clay passes on this link to Mrs. Hardy's obit in the Tulane Hullabaloo.