Fletcher, Miami East schools and Miami County all suffered a huge loss this week with the passing of Wayne Hardman.
To me, Wayne wasn’t just a photographer for newspaper — he was everything a local sports journalist should be.
And while he may have only done it on part time basis, Wayne touched far more lives than most of us doing it full time ever will.
I first met Wayne when I was working as a stringer for Sports Editor John Barton — my predecessor — at the Piqua Daily Call.
We were going to a cross country meet near Covington and met at the Call building to go to the meet.
The first thing Wayne told me was — if you are an Ohio State fan you can get in my truck, but if you are a Michigan fan, you will have to drive yourself.
Well, I certainly wasn’t going to tell him I wasn’t a Buckeye fan.
The only thing Wayne may have loved more than Ohio State football was shooting his beloved Miami East Vikings — or Piqua volleyball when his granddaughters Emmalee and Abby played for the Lady Indians.
Throughout his life — whether it was taking photos or helping the community out in any way possible — Wayne made everyone around him’s life better for knowing him.
Even after taking a terrible fall on a trip to the Middle East shortly after I met him — a fall that would have killed most — he not only recovered, but worked for the paper for another 15-plus years.
I think you would be hard pressed to find someone in Fletcher or who attended Miami East schools whose life wasn’t touched — and made better — by Wayne.
My favorite story about Wayne happened one night after he had rode with me to an event.
When we returned, I went in to immediately start writing my story.
Wayne had some camera equipment to get out of my car, so I gave him my keys.
It wasn’t until 3 a.m. — when I went to go home as John Barton and I were wrapping up for the night that I realized I had never gotten my keys back from Wayne — who had left hours ago.
As much as I hated to, I made the call to Wayne’s house in Fletcher and asked him if he had my keys.
After waking him up, he realized he had them — and while I told him John and I were coming over to pick them up, he had already put the phone down — wanting to get me the keys as quickly as possible.
You can probably imagine what happened from there.
When John and I arrived at Wayne’s house, his truck was gone and nobody answered the door.
That’s when John said, “Did we pass him on the way over?”
So, we headed back to Piqua Daily Call — and there was Wayne wandering around the building looking for us.
We all got a chuckle out of that one.
Wayne was definitely one of a kind — and will never be forgotten.
And I — like everyone else who crossed his path — am better for having been lucky enough to know him.