Joe P. Hardeman did not consider his retirement from South Texas Catholic in 2010 as an opportunity to relax and to take life easy. Instead, he began volunteering at Mother Theresa shelter regularly for two days a week and whenever his help was needed.
Just because he was volunteering, he did not choose to go to the shelter just when he felt like doing it. He went regularly and on time to take up responsibilities wherever his assistance was needed - whether it was in the kitchen, activity area or to call out people for shower and laundry.
“He was happy to help out anywhere he was needed. Joe enjoyed doing it all and was proud of being a volunteer at the shelter. As a result, he built a great relationship with the people at the shelter, being a friend of everyone,” said Sister Rose Paul Madassery SABS, executive director of the Mother Teresa Shelter.
Hardeman assisted not only with the chores at the shelter. At times when the shelter ran short of supplies, he did not hesitate to go to the store and get them, often refusing to accept money for its payment.
“Once he heard me telling someone in the kitchen that we did not have pancake syrup for that morning’s breakfast. Without being asked, he was gone to get it immediately so that our homeless brothers and sisters may not be left without it,” Sister Rose said. “He was so humble and a quietly serving person that he did it all with an unassuming sense of charity as if it was a second nature to him.”
This was not an isolated instance. On another occasion, when the shelter’s staff had to go to attend a Memorial Service for a homeless deceased brother, they had no one to open the shelter. Hardeman showed up very early on that cold winter morning to open the shelter. He made coffee for all the clients and got everything ready for breakfast by himself.
“He did it all with his unique smile that pleased everyone. He would walk slowly, but always reflecting the joy of serving the people in love,” Sister Rose said.
A few months after he began volunteering at the shelter, Sister Rose learned that Hardeman was an animal lover. The shelter has a few visiting cats that belong to its neighbors. Sister Rose said the cats love to frequent the shelter because clients enjoy feeding them.
“There was an unwritten rule at the shelter that we do not allow cats into the facility. It was not because we did not like them, but because of the mess they would create in the yard and inside the building,” Sister Rose said. “Joe knew that I strictly enforced it. One morning as I was going to the back area of the shelter, Joe suddenly came out from there with a bag of cat food. As soon as he saw me, without saying anything, slipped out through the door with a smile. Later I realized that he was hiding cat food at the back and used to feed the cats regularly. We all had a laugh that day about Joe’s famous smile. He said he liked all God’s creatures.”
Hardeman loved the shelter because of its special mission of taking care of his less fortunate homeless brothers and sisters. Wherever he went he spoke for the shelter and about the need to support it. His love for the institution was obvious in his enthusiasm to collect supplies for the shelter from his parish or from wherever he could get them. Most important was the great relationship he established with the staff and clients here. He showed everyone that he loved them all, Sister Rose said.
“Dear Joe, it is heart-breaking to think that you will not be coming up the steps of Mother Theresa Shelter anymore. But we know that your wonderful spirit of love and service will continue to inspire us all and your prayers will support our efforts to serve the needy,” Sister Rose said.
Joseph Patrick Hardeman, age 72, was called home by the Lord on Feb. 28. He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Nancy Drouin Hardeman; daughter, Cheryle (Grant) Flournoy; granddaughters, Megan and Abigail Flournoy; sister, Carolyn (Gary) Thurmond and numerous other loving family members.