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Dee Hardie, columnist, author and gardener, dies

Dee Hardie was a Baltimore author who for years wrote a weekly column, “A View From A Hill,” and was also a contributing editor and columnist for various magazines.
Dee Hardie was a Baltimore author who for years wrote a weekly column, “A View From A Hill,” and was also a contributing editor and columnist for various magazines. (Handout photo)

Dee Hardie, a Baltimore author who for years wrote a weekly column, "A View From A Hill," and was also a contributing editor and columnist for various magazines, died Saturday of heart failure at Roland Park Place where she had lived since 2006.

She was 89.

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"Dee Hardie was a lady of many talents and interests, and a close family friend who lived near my parents in Butler," said Francis Key Kidder, a Towson resident and former Baltimore Sun reporter who is now an aide to former Republican congresswoman and chairwoman of the federal Maritime Commission Helen Delich Bentley.

"She was a formidable conversationalist," he said of Ms. Hardie. "My mother was no slouch either. Words and laughter spilled from their mouths for hours on end."

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She was born Ruth Carol Dion, the daughter of Albert L. Dion, a Lorillard Tobacco Co. executive, and Florence Nielsen Dion, a homemaker. She was raised in Providence, R.I.

After graduating in 1944 from Dean Academy, now Dean College, in Franklin, Mass., she earned a bachelor's degree in English in 1948 from Skidmore College.

During her college years, she adopted the name Dee, family members said. After leaving Skidmore, she won Vogue magazine's 13th Prix de Paris essay contest, and from 1948 to 1950 worked in the magazine's editorial offices in New York and Paris.

While in Paris, she met and fell in love with Thomas Gray Hardie II, who at the time was a reporter for The Washington Post assigned to Paris. He later wrote for the International Herald Tribune, the old Hearst International News Service and United Press International.

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At the time of their marriage in 1950, he was doing public relations work for the Marshall Plan. The couple then moved to Netcong, N.J., where he owned and edited the Netcong-Stanhope News.

In 1953, they moved to Carriage Lane in Towson and a year later settled at Thornhill Farm in Butler in a derelict Quaker farmhouse that was built in 1843. The house that sat on 60 acres of rolling Baltimore County land was lovingly restored by the couple, along with its gardens and grounds.

Thornhill Farm would eventually become Mrs. Hardie's muse and inspiration, resulting in years of columns and several books.

"I go away for a while, and I can hardly wait to get back," she once told The Sun.

In 1966, Mrs. Hardie began writing "A View From A Hill," which was edited by her husband, for the old News American and later The Baltimore Sun. In 1974, she moved the column to House and Garden, House Beautiful and Style magazines.

"In these pages through the years, Dee Hardie has written and continues to write about ponies and children, hollyhocks and roses, orphaned lambs and raspberry jam, and of Thornhill Farm, the house and land in Glyndon where she and her husband Tom have lived for 30 years and raised four children and created a singular sort of life," wrote the late Sun reporter Linda Lowe Morris in 1985.

"She writes of the everyday (which in her life is rarely ordinary), the little rituals and rites of passage, the things that touch the heart, the stuff of memories and family snapshots," wrote Ms. Morris.

From 1972 to 1996, Mrs. Hardie was a contributing editor and monthly columnist first for House and Garden, then House Beautiful magazines.

Beginning in 1989, she and her husband began collaborating on a syndicated column, "Grandparenting: A Family Forum," which was published in 50 newspapers across the country.

The couple also collaborated through the years on food articles that came from their travels to such places as Mayaguez and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

In 1985, Atheneum Books in New York published her first book, "Hollyhocks, Lambs and Other Passions: A Memoir of Thornhill Farm," which was followed two years later by "Views from Thornhill."

"A splendid memoir of the kind of family life and country home we all dream of, done with not a little wit and empirical wisdom," wrote William W. Warner, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Beautiful Swimmers," of Mrs. Hardie's first book.

"Looking back, I wonder if it was I who needed Thornhill the most, although I certainly didn't realize it at first," Mrs. Hardie wrote in "Hollyhocks." The farm, she wrote, "shaped me more than I shaped it, giving me some kind of character, a strength and a background."

"In its unassuming and settled way, it has sheltered all of us, shaped our joys, helped hide our sometime sadnesses. And it is where we have all grown up. Without Thornhill, our life, our family would have had a different rhythm. And we, I hope, have given the house a reason."

Mrs. Hardie's husband died in 2007.

In addition to reading, writing and traveling, Mrs. Hardie enjoyed gardening, tennis and going to the movies.

She was a communicant of St. John's Episcopal Church, 3738 Butler Road, Glyndon, where funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Friday.

Mrs. Hardie is survived by a son, Todd Dion Hardie of Greensboro, Vt.; two daughters, Paisley Louise Isaacs of Butler and Elizabeth Hardie Nelson of Ferrisburgh, Vt.; a sister, Barbara Louise Pappas of Rancho Murieta, Calif.; eight grandchildren; and a great-grandson. Another son, Thomas Gray Hardie III, died in 1975.

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