By: Tammy Curtis, Managing Editor
In March, Hardy lost one of its long time residents whose roots ran so deeply no one will ever be able to fill the void. With the passing of Bob Zeiger, a huge hole was left in the heart of the com-munity for the man who was a friend to all. On June 26, a special ceremony was held at the Hardy City Hall to dedicate a bench made by Paul and Sela Moser, friends of Bob’s. Mayor Ethan Barnes welcomed the crowd of about 20 including his grandson Beau and his wife Cira and daughter Maci as well as his granddaughter McKenzie Fletcher. He explained while the dedication was being held at the City Hall, an appropriate permanent location for the bench would be determined later. Barnes told attendees it was a day to be happy, honor Bob Zeiger and allow his memories to live on in future generations. Sela Moser and her husband, Paul, moved to area in 2014. They became fast friends. The Moser’s bought an unimproved lot on Lake Mirandy and lived in Bee Run Camper Park at Hardy while Paul constructed their home. This is where they met Bob a year later. Sela opened the dedication and said, “Anyone who knew Bob knows he doesn’t need a memorial of any kind to remember him.” She went on to explain how the wrought iron and wood bench inscribed with the words “Al-ways a Friend” came to be. The bench was left to the Mosers by a neighbors when the man’s wife passed away and he was moving. Little did they know at some point the lifeless bench would have a purpose and a new home. Despite its badly deteriorated condition, they kept it. When Bob passed away in March, Sela knew it would be fitting to utilize the bench to bring a great legacy for Bob to not only the people who knew him, but those who never had the privilege. Paul completely reworked the bench to new condition and blessed it with the engraving. Sitting on the bench during the dedication was a single yellow zinnia placed simply in a green jar under the words, as a symbol to the simplicity of not only Bob as a person, but the purity of his love for the area and his friends.“ The reason I think the bench is appropriate is because Bob’s legacy was to always give people a place of comfort, a place where they could take a load off and a place that they could rest,” Sena explained of the man born in Hardy on Nov. 23, 1947. The same man who would later go on to be one of the first graduates of High-land High School in 1965.Not only did he love his friends and family, but he served the area for 35 years as a fire-fighter. She said it took sometime to decide what was going to be placed on the bench to honor him. After looking at the online cards from his memorial, she found one from Lin-da Manfred (Grissom)who graduated high school with Bob who said she would always remember him as a friend.“ We are not native to this area, but in all the years we have lived here, Paul and I can say we also feel Hardy proud. I am very proud to have known Bob, loved Bob and to leave this for all of us who knew him and those who didn’t to enjoy.” Mayor Barnes asked those in attendance to share stories about him. Laughing, a few said they couldn’t share them publicly but the smiles when recalling Bob spoke volumes. Mary Murphy shared a story of Bob bringing a tub full of the hard to peel, old time Bartlett pears to church and no one but her would take them. She made preserves from them and said she thinks that she knows where the secret tree from which the pears came is located and plans to utilize its pickings this fall. Another man told a story of Bob buying a pickup load of sweet potatoes and taking them to church to share with the congregation, staying to true to what most recall of him always being a friend. Sela shared a story from when she and Paul were building their home. She said it was very slow process because it was just them and one laborer. She recalled sharing the anticipation of getting their gravel with Bob. “It is going to take us two weeks to spread it though,” she laughed. After telling Bob the gravel was set to arrive the next day at eleven she relived the excitement of realizing they weren’t going to have to hand spread it. “Here comes that green tractor chugging down the street, all the way up 412, all the way down Timberline to our driveway. Here comes Bob to spread that gravel for us. That was iconic Bob… any excuse to use that tractor,” she explained smiling widely. Another man who lived at the RV park told of Bob sharing funny stories with residents on a regular basis. “He was really a good hearted man.” Still another told of how Bob’s horse knew his way home when he might have got out and had a few too many. One of his dearest friends, Roger Stark, explained one of the largest Hardy traditions was the brain-child of his friend. Bob was the original creator of the Hardy Homesteader’s Day, an annual event that has been going on for 30years with this Fall’s event being the 31st. Bob felt it was important for younger generations to know their roots and how their ancestors did everyday things before an automated society. Zeiger enlisted many throughout the years of the event’s history. Through Zeiger’s vision, Homesteaders Day has allowed thou-sands of people the opportunity to relive the glory days for fun and educational purposes each year. The first year in1991, there were only six or seven participants and people brought their teams of mules and allowed them to do plowing demonstrations. They also had the hay cut, in the old Pecan Grove area east of Hardy and had an old baler for horses to demonstrate. It has continued to grow each year with a complete town set up at Loberg Park. Many of Zeiger’s original participants, including Stark and Doris Rose, along with their spouses still help set the scene much like stepping back intime to an old frontier town. From a real wood cook stove in a pioneer type kitchen to a candy shop, soap maker, school house, blacksmith, bank, jail, saloon and even an undertaker, visitors are transported back toa much simpler time with sights, sounds and smells of a by-gone era. The smells of wood stove and open fire cooking in several of the chuckwagon kitchens where demonstrators offer samples of their food welcomes visitors. The smells of beans, hoe cakes, homemade bread, fresh churned butter, cobblers and any other array of food cooked on the fire can be sampled as visitors walk throughout the living educational exhibits offered at Hardy Homesteader’s Day. The event is just as Bob envisioned it30 years ago, as one for young and old alike. Thanks to Bob’s insight into the importance of showing new generations the ways things used to bed one, Homesteader’s Day has been a favorite event in the area for many years. Those attending often dress in pioneer apparel and fit nicely into the scenes. Bob was always in his overalls and his wife, Debi, dressed in period attire joined others in cooking during the event. Toe sack and terrapin races are also a favorite of the children and something added through the years as well as petting some of the goats that are on scene to make the event even more realistic. It did Bob’s heart good to see the event grow and realize the impact of his vision. This year will be different, but will go on in his honor as preparations are already underway, just as Bob would want it. Over three decades later, the group who puts on the event has grown exponentially with numerous volunteers. The support of area businesses who sponsor by purchasing ads in their poster keep admission free to the public. They still strive to keep Bob’s vision alive with the country heritage on which rural Arkansans derive their roots, even if it is just once a year. There is no doubt that this fall, the spirit of Bob’s vision will smile upon the event as he looks down from heaven with satisfaction knowing something he dreamed up will live on in his name. He was indeed, a friend to all.