Della Odessa Harding was affectionately known as "Grandma" in the hallways of Roosevelt High School, but with a simple stern look the hall monitor could get even the most difficult of students right back in line, her relatives said.
"The baddest kids in the school straightened up when she walked in," recalled one of her daughters, Carolyn Harding of Freeport.
The longtime Roosevelt resident also gained fame in the community for making her home a gathering point for hundreds of people, including at least one who said she helped turn his life around.
Harding, 82, died of congestive heart failure Oct. 27 at Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Centre.
Michael Winslow, 47, a computer programmer from Huntington Station, said Della Harding took him into her home temporarily when he was a teenager and had been living in a park for about two months because of problems at home.
"She contributed to my life in so many ways," Winslow said. His relationship with her "was really life-changing for me."
Harding grew up in Hempstead and was one of nine children. In 1954 she married Robert Leroy Harding of Kansas City, Missouri. He was in the military, and the couple traveled the country and overseas during his assignments. He was stationed at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, and at bases in Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, England and Portugal, where he served at a base in the Azores, Carolyn Harding said.
In the Azores, Harding discovered she was an outstanding bowler and softball pitcher, Carolyn Harding said. She was also a sharp card player and an artist who would sketch out clothes designs that other women on the bases would then sew. The women would organize fashion shows -- complete with runways -- at the bases.
By 1969, the couple returned to Harding's community, settling in Roosevelt. Their home became a hub of activity, Harding's daughter said.
"The kitchen on East Raymond Avenue never failed to feed whoever came over, and the card games seemed to literally last for days," Carolyn Harding said. Annual barbecues the family hosted were "legendary."
When she was in her later 60s, Harding went to work at Roosevelt High School, working several years in a job that added to her local fame, her daughter said.
Besides her daughter and husband, Harding is survived by daughter Kim Davis of Merrick; a son, Robert Harding of Roosevelt; a sister, Sarah Ebron of Coram; three brothers, William Ebron of Uniondale, and John and Timothy Ebron, both of Atlanta; nine grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Another son, Richard Harding, died previously.
A funeral service was Tuesday at Union Baptist Church in Hempstead. Burial was Wednesday in Greenfield Cemetery, Uniondale.