News Feature

Deer Isle
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, October 16, 2020
Neville Hardy leaves a Deer Isle legacy
Ran the town for decades

Hardy and friends

Neville Hardy, Twyla Weed and Lew Ellis worked together on the Deer Isle Select Board for many years. “We learned way back we don’t always agree, but it’s okay to disagree and remain friends,” Weed said.

Penobscot Bay Press file photo

by Leslie Landrigan

The island lost a legend on October 10 with the death of Neville Hardy, Deer Isle’s longtime first selectman. He was 81.

Hardy wore many hats, according to his friend and fellow selectman Lew Ellis. He was a Hancock County sheriff’s deputy, superintendent of Mount Adams Cemetery, a member of the Hancock County Budget Advisory Board, store owner and voluntary road commissioner. He was also a father, husband and brother.

“He had a big impact,” said Hubert Billings, his half-brother, in a phone interview. “I think his way of management was typical of normal old-time Maine. You could see these other towns had selectmen like Neville for 20-30 years. They ran the town and that was it.” Billings worked with Hardy for many years as code enforcement officer.

“He put the town before everything else,” said Twyla Weed, who served on the select board with Hardy for many years.

Hardy’s favorite expression, said Ellis, was “bad business,” and he generally said it when spending money was involved. “If you said ‘King Row needs to be ditched so the water doesn’t run over Nancy Weed’s mother’s lawn,’ he’d say that,” Ellis said in a phone interview.

Early years

Billings remembers when Hardy was born—at home, delivered by Dr. Benjamin Noyes. His family didn’t have much money, and he worked whenever he could, Billings said.

Hardy was big and strong, and liked playing basketball, winning the statewide foul shooting contest sponsored by DeMolay International, the Mason’s youth group.

He graduated from Deer Isle High School in 1958 and joined the Army, where he served in Panama for most of his two-year enlistment. In later life he always made sure the veterans’ cemeteries were taken care of, often mowing them himself when no one else would do it—with a push mower, Ellis said.

He married Darlene Bray in 1966 and they had a daughter, Bonnie. With Darlene and Bonnie he ran Hardy’s General Store, the front of which is now at Nervous Nellie’s.

“A lot of people didn’t think he’d make out too well,” Billings said. “He knew he had to get there early, to get coffee and donuts for the workmen, then stay late at night. That’s the only way they could survive.”

The store, said Billings, also served as an informal selectmen’s office.

Weed recalled Hardy first won election as third selectman in 1963 and then became first selectman a few years later.

Friend of natives

“He was a great friend of the native population and a threat to the flatlander,” said Ellis. “He had his own set of rules sometimes. When they [flatlanders] would come in and ask certain questions, he would give them the correct answer. They’d leave with a dumbfounded expression.”

He never gossiped but he never spoke unkindly about anyone, Ellis said. “But you surely knew if he didn’t like you.” That comment, said Ellis, applied to flatlanders.

Hardy relished keeping taxes low, sometimes by relentlessly holding back the school board’s spending, Ellis said. Once, a school board vote wasn’t going his way. He then emptied the auditorium so a vote couldn’t be taken, Ellis said.

Old school

Hardy was not a fan of moving into the 21st century, Ellis said. “He still had the black dial-up phone. It’s still there and if you plug it in it still works,” he said.

Weed said Hardy allowed computers into the town offices around 1990, but just for the tax bills. “We learned way back we don’t always agree, but it’s okay to disagree and remain friends,” Weed said in a phone interview. “He was my mentor. He taught me a lot about the town office.”

Hardy looked forward to the Fourth of July parade when he wore his top hat, Ellis said. “He would always say, ‘We want to send the tax bills out after the parade so they can’t throw anything at us.’”

“He would never seize a house for taxes,” Billlings said. Old people, helpless and without money, didn’t have to worry about being evicted by the town, he said.

Hardy also distributed surplus food—powdered milk, canned meat, oatmeal—to families who needed it, Billings said. He sorted it according to how many children a family had, and kept it locked up in the jail. Hardy also made sure the Boston Post cane went to the person who deserved it. “He had a list of who was in line, who should get it and who he didn’t think should have it,” Ellis said.

A lot happened during Hardy’s time as first selectman, Billings said. Schools were built, and so were the town offices after Town Hall burned down.

“He had an interesting life,” Billings said. “I’m going to miss Neville.”

Hardy and friends

Neville Hardy, Twyla Weed and Lew Ellis worked together on the Deer Isle Select Board for many years. “We learned way back we don’t always agree, but it’s okay to disagree and remain friends,” Weed said.

Penobscot Bay Press file photo
Neville Hardy

Neville Hardy at his desk in the Deer Isle town office. He wore many hats, but he was proudest of his 47 years as first selectman.

Penobscot Bay Press file photo
Neville and Joe

Neville Hardy, then Deer Isle’s first selectman, and Joe Brown, now a Deer Isle selectman.

Penobscot Bay Press file photo