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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 21, 2006

Inspirational pathologist John Hardman

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer


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To people who follow murder trials in the newspapers, John Hardman was an expert witness who usually came up with surprising testimony.

To the more than 1,500 pathology students he taught, and the dozens of resident pathologists he mentored over the years, Hardman was the gentle educator who inspired them and motivated them to think.

But to Maggie Hardman, his wife of 28 years, "He was just the sweetest man he read me a bedtime story every single night."

And his idea of a great bedtime story? "The Life of Benedict Arnold" or "The Invasion of Normandy." Through his perpetual passion for practically everything, he made it all exciting.

"I remember lying there thinking, 'What is Eisenhower going to do?' " she said with a laugh.

Hardman, who chaired the Department of Pathology at the John A. Burns School of Medicine since 1977, died of cancer Wednesday. He was 73.

Before that, Hardman had spent 23 years in active military service, serving as chief of the Pathology Department at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

According to his wife, there was a common element to all the many aspects of John Hardman be it figuring out how a victim actually died, or inspiring students to think, or simply reading a bedtime story:

"It all goes back to the puzzle," she said. "That was at the heart of everything with him. Take his interest in history. To really understand what Benjamin Franklin was really all about, or Benedict Arnold, or Alexander Hamilton, you had to figure out how to solve the mystery of the puzzle about them."

Hardman was a passionate seeker of the truth. Always looking for conclusive evidence. He was a man who thought learning was the greatest reward. And he was a person who instinctively thought the best of others always assumed positive intent even if they sometimes did wrong.

Hardman left the world having never once, to her knowledge, said a bad word about another human being, said Maggie Hardman.

Hardman had led a charmed life, according to her. He was healthy in February. Then, on March 3 he showed the first symptoms of his illness. On April 15 he abruptly lost his ability to swallow. Barely a month later he was gone.

In typical fashion, he even solved that great puzzle to his own satisfaction. It happened one night when the two were playing canasta cards being another of his many passions, along with sports, history and life itself.

"It was simply the luck of the draw," said his wife. "It just came to him. You can get what looks like the perfect hand, and then you simply draw a bad card."

Hardman is survived by his wife; two children, Scott Hardman and Shari Irwin; and grandchildren, Annie Hardman and Taylor, Jared and Jordy Irwin.

The John A. Burns School of Medicine has established an endowment to honor him. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the UH Foundation, c/o the Hardman Endowment, John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawai'i 651 Ilalo St., Honolulu, HI 96813-5534.

A memorial service will be announced later.

Reach Will Hoover at whoover@honoluluadvertiser.com.