A former fitness instructor at the Arlington Heights Senior Center, who personified health and vigor to students and co-workers alike, has died.
Ed Hardy taught his "Fun 'n' Fitness" class five days a week at the senior center for 17 years before retiring.
He passed away Thursday after battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig's disease. He was 77.
"He was legendary here," said Karen Hansen, executive director of the Arlington Heights Senior Center. "He was an amazing role model and leaves behind friends, fans, students and groupies, and a hole in our hearts."
His wife, Dottie, is a former board member with Arlington Heights Elementary District 25, and board chairman and two-term trustee of Northwest Community Hospital's foundation board.
"He is now in the arms of the Lord, once again whole," Dottie Hardy said after describing how the disease had taken away her husband's ability to walk, stand, use his hands, and ultimately speak.
Just last year, Hardy won the "Young at Heart" award at the Hearts of Gold dinner sponsored by the Village of Arlington Heights.
"When we think of someone as being 'young at heart,' the first thing that comes to mind is that special individual who is youthful no matter what their age," said Paula Ulrich, the special events commissioner who presented Hardy's award. "Ed Hardy exemplifies that definition."
Hardy first acquired his fitness regimen while serving in the Naval ROTC program at Northwestern University. He went on to serve two years of active duty and 29 with the Naval Reserves.
In business, Hardy built a career with Illinois Bell and later Ameritech, retiring in 1992 as a district manager.
Retirement opened up time for Hardy to return to his passion for fitness. A lifelong runner, he began entering local races and even the Senior Olympics, where he competed in 5K events.
He accepted the teaching position at the senior center because it was close enough to his home that he could run or ride his bike there. His "Fun 'n' Fitness" class was aptly named, he would say.
"It was fun for me," he told Ulrich, "while seniors got fit."
Besides his wife, Hardy is survived by children Christina M. (James) Gurke, Susan E. (William) Mathison and Edward W. Hardy, IV, as well as five grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his son, Brian.
Visitation will take place from 6-9 p.m. Monday at Glueckert Funeral Home, 1520 N. Arlington Heights Road, before a 9:30 a.m. funeral Mass Tuesday at Our Lady of the Wayside Catholic Church, 440 S. Mitchell Ave. in Arlington Heights.