Twenty-four hanging flower baskets, planted to the brim with vivid purple flowers, now hang from light posts circling the Square.
It was under those baskets, on June 19, with members of the city, Highland Area Community Foundation, Highland Health Care Center, and her family, that Sandy Hardy Chinn, knew her mother was looking down on her, smiling at the colorful plants raised in her memory.
Chinn’s parents, Bob and Rita (Re) Hardy met when they were both stationed at Scott Air Force Base. When they were out of the Air Force, the couple decided to get married and moved from West Belleville to Highland in 1977. They quickly knew the town was special.
“They loved this town,” Chinn said. “Everybody in Highland sort of took them under their wing and adopted them as their kids.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to Belleville News-Democrat
Bob worked at KMOX until his death in 1993, while Re, according to Chinn, was a somewhat stay-at-home mom. She said “somewhat” because Re dabbled in many things. She was a professional singer, designed her own line of tennis and sports clothing and ran a family-owned business.
But one of Re’s passions had always been flowers. Chinn said she remembers her house always being full of plants, inside and out. After Bob passed away in 1993, Re decided to open the Bob and Re Hardy Beautification Fund at the HACF, which she contributed to every year.
“Re always kept Highland in her heart,” said the HACF Executive Director Terry Riffel.
The money from her fund would primarily go to the Highland Garden Club, to help keep the city beautiful. But, it was while Re was traveling through Italy for her 70th birthday when she saw elaborate hanging baskets decorating Italian villages. Chinn said it was then when Re began getting ideas for the square.
However, before she could bring her dream to life, she had to leave it behind, Re passed away last summer. She left a deep imprint in the Highland community and many residents still speak about fond memories they have with the Hardys.
Councilwoman Peggy Bellm would see Re every Thursday morning when they would go to get their hair done at the salon.
“You talk about a character,” Bellm said. “Wonderful woman, always had a smile on her face, and a lot of class.”
When Re passed away, as gifts to the family, many donors made memorial contributions to Re’s beautification fund. Chinn said there would be no better way to remember her than to donate the hanging baskets to the city. So she started the process and began working with the city to get the baskets put up. Members from the Highland Health Care Center, 1450 26th St., volunteered to plant the baskets.
“What’s nice about it, our people still feel a part of the community,” said a Highland Health Care Center employee Sharon Young. “This way when we drive by, we can look at the flowers, see the flowers and they can show community pride. Because it is important no matter what our age is two to 102 to be involved in the community.”
Chinn would like to invite everyone to the Square to come see the plants and wants to thank everyone who helped make the project beautiful.
“She’s up there looking down on these baskets and she has got a smile on her face,” Chinn said.