Mr. Kenneth J. Hardison, naval hero, proud volunteer firefighter, loving husband, and father, passed away on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023, with his wife and daughters by his side.
Ken was born in Nassawadox to the late Jake Bray Hardison and the late Betty Jean Bradford Snell on Dec. 5, 1949. Ken was raised on Chincoteague Island surrounded by a large extended family, including his late grandparents, Charlie and Oneida Bradford.
Chincoteague was always his home; even after traveling the country during his time in the service, it still called to him. Ken loved his country and he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where he served his country proudly and with dignity for 21 years, retiring as a senior chief. He commissioned several ships and spent years away from his family cultivating his talents at various schools throughout his Naval career. He was stationed in Norfolk, Rochester, N.Y., and Mayport, Fla., where he raised his three daughters.
During his time in the Navy, Ken served in many capacities, including gas turbine tech, NAVSEACENLANT calibration tech, TECHMATICS ships construction engineer (Washington State), and TECHMATICS resident engineer AEGIS (Wallops Island).
When he retired from serving his country, he moved back to the Eastern Shore of Virginia, where his roots called him home. It was here that he met the love of his life, his “woomun” as he called her, Rita.
Not one to sit idle in retirement, Ken gained employment as a mobile power engineer with NASA, working for LGT and Honeywell, Special Projects with BAE. Ken also lent his hands and his heart to many service organizations here on the Shore; as a lifetime member of the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, he became a firefighter, ambulance squad leader, a Saltwater Cowboy, and president, and his photo is proudly displayed along with other past presidents in the lobby of the firehouse.
But he didn’t stop there; Ken was also a member of the Temperanceville Masonic Lodge #241, where he served as Master Mason and was also a valuable member of the Shriners Khedive Temple and the Eastern Shore Shrine Club.
Wherever help was needed, Ken was there. He not only served his country, but he served his fellow man, and his smile was as big as his heart. Prankster, jokester, friend, co-worker, it didn’t matter; Ken was larger than life in so many ways. When he was your friend, he was your friend for life, and he could be counted on to give his heart, his time, and his opinion, whether you liked it or not. But you can rest assured he gave it all willingly many, many times over.
Left to cherish his memory are his wife, Rita Gaskins Hardison; daughters, Stacy Chaback, Tammy Watford (James), and Mindy Barber (Kevin); grandchildren, Tyler, Lacy, Blake, and Riley, all of Jacksonville, Fla.; stepsister, Robin Ireland (Lenwood); stepbrother, Buzzy Hardison; sister-in-law, Nancy Hardison; stepmother, Becky Hardison; several nieces, nephews, and cousins; and several close friends.
Besides his parents, he was predeceased by his stepfather, Robert Snell, and his brother, Mickey Joe Hardison.
He loved his animals; they, too, were family. Of those, he was preceded in death by JD, Tahoe, Diamond, Geronimo, Rebel, Magic, and Angel, and is survived by Precious.
There will be a viewing from 7 to 9 p.m. at Salyer Funeral Home, Inc. on Friday, Oct. 6, 2023, with a Masonic service at 7:30 p.m.
Funeral services will be held on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023 at 11 a.m. at Union Baptist Church on Chincoteague Island, with the Rev. Maury Enright officiating. Interment will take place at a later date in Arlington National Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, P.O. Box 691, Chincoteague Island, VA 23336.
Services were entrusted to Salyer Funeral Home, Inc. on Chincoteague Island. Condolences may be made online at http://www.salyerfh.com