Kim Hardwick, the principal of Clayton Huey Elementary School in Center Moriches, died unexpectedly Monday after complications from surgery. She was 50.
The Nesconset resident led education efforts in Ghana and radiated positivity and kindness, members of the Center Moriches community said. Her death left them reeling and remembering the wife and mother of two for her warmth and dedication.
“Mrs. Hardwick's passing will leave an emptiness that cannot be filled, and a silence that cannot be quelled,” Center Moriches School District Superintendent Russell Stewart said in a statement. “She will forever be remembered and missed.”
Hardwick began her education career as an English teacher at her alma mater, the former Franklin K. Lane High School in Brooklyn, in 1992, according to an online biography. She went on to teach at Copiague High School and work as an administrator in the Garden City and Hauppauge school districts before taking her post at Clayton Huey nine years ago, Stewart said.
She was an advocate for Common Core standards and active in education initiatives, including the Literacy Empowerment Action Project, which focuses on supporting students in eastern Ghana. Kwame Alexander, a poet, New York Times best-selling author and friend of Hardwick’s, founded the organization in 2012 with her support.
He recalled that during their first trip to Konko, Ghana, in 2014, the village school’s sole book was a computer technology textbook, though it had no computers. Four years later the organization opened a library and health clinic there.
“She had so much more to give,” Alexander said. “I just try to focus on the fact that she gave everything and she made all the people around her better.”
Others remembered her for her everyday impact at home.
Jeannine Barr, a clerk in the district office, recalled one day when Hardwick stood outside in the pouring rain “soaked to the bone,” but wore a beaming smile as she made sure her students got into the building safely.
“There was never a day when she didn't bounce into this office with a pleasant and upbeat attitude,” Barr said. “She'll always shine bright in the memories of so many people.”
Cassy Caputo operates the Center Moriches-based nonprofit Helping Makes U Happy along with her adult son Keith, who has Down syndrome. Hardwick was instrumental in helping the organization reach the community, she said. Recently, they were planning a fundraiser for a summer program that feeds families eligible for free and reduced lunch.
“She just embraced the helping he does and brought it to her students,” Caputo said. “She got kids to understand and feel the excitement of helping others.”
Hardwick recently recognized her and Keith through a school project that celebrates local heroes, Caputo said.
“But she really was a hero to us, and so many people,” she said.
Hardwick is survived by her husband, Christopher Honor, and two daughters, Emma Marino and Hannah Honor.
Visitation will be at Branch Funeral Home in Smithtown on Friday from 2 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. A service is set for 8 p.m. Friday.