I first met Hardy Jackson on the streets of Biloxi, MS, just hours after hurricane Katrina roared ashore. I was reporting on the devastation with photographer Arnell Hamiliton when Hardy approached me. He said something I couldn’t understand, so I asked how he was doing.
He and his wife decided to ride out the storm, like they had done so many times before. He described how they got to the roof and then the roof split in half. Hardy hung on to Tonette (Tonie) until she let go saying, ‘you can’t hold me. Take care of the kids and the grandkids.’
Tonie’s body has still not been recovered.
I kept in touch with Hardy after Katrina. I learned he had a larger family than just the two boys he had with him the first day I met him. He had three kids, Mary, Tonie Jr. and Hardy Jr. Mary was mom to Deion and Chris. Tonie Jr. was mom to Keandre.
Soon after Katrina, musician Frankie Beverly bought the family a home in Palmetto, Ga, so he could be out of harms way, and closer to other family.
A few months later, I moved from Mobile, Al and WKRG-TV to Atlanta, Ga to work for CBS Atlanta News. We kept in touch and I really got to know the family.
Last year, Hardy told me his oldest daughter Mary, was diagnosed with cancer. Just a few months ago, Hardy said Mary had 6 months to a year to live. That time period ended up only being one more month. Mary passed away at age 31, leaving behind two young boys.
Hardy and his family endured another heartache. A kind and generous CBS Atlanta News viewer made a donation to purchase a grave marker for Mary. Hardy also had his wife’s name put on it. He’s says it will be a place his family can now visit both loved ones.