Former chief steward of McCormick Place will be missed
Some people you only need to meet once to remember for a lifetime, and the people who crossed Michael Hardy’s path during his 25-year career at McCormick Place would probably tell you he was unforgettable.
Hardy, 65, passed away in May 2014, leaving a lasting impact on those in his life, both professionally and personally. Throughout Hardy’s life, business colleagues often became lifelong friends.
“He was one of those guys that there were just very few people like him,” said Michael P. Hogan Sr., CEO of Showbiz America and former chief steward of the Teamsters at McCormick Place. “Instead of dotting his I’s twice, he would do it 15 times.”
Hogan hired Hardy in 1975 at McCormick Place, where Hardy soon took over as chief steward for the Teamsters – a career that would last for the next 21 years, impacting countless lives of those in the industry.
“If you were working with Mike, you were always informed,” Hogan said. “I think his favorite part of that job was being able to exercise his organizing skills. In our business, everything has to be done perfectly.”
Hogan was also Hardy’s best man at his wedding.
“He was a nondrinker … but his sense of humor was the best,” Hogan said. “He was a very funny guy.”
Hardy was no stranger to the trade and convention industry or to the city, and before his career at McCormick was an employee of the Chicago Blackhawks and the Chicago Cougars.
Tom Larney first met Hardy when he was a Zamboni driver for the Chicago Cougars in 1972, and continued their working relationship in the industry throughout Hardy’s career.
“If the contractors, show management and laborers don’t work together, the show won’t be successful,” Larney said. “Back in those days, we were moving shows in and out of there in tight time frames.
“If [Hardy] couldn’t get the answer, he would be sure to go get the answer and make sure it would work for the city of Chicago. The city of Chicago and its people came first.”
Larney, who worked with Hardy through show management contracts, shared that although Hardy was tough, he was just, fair and always conscious of his workers he was tasked to look out for.
“He knew his business inside and out, and he knew his contracts,” Larney said.
Ever devoted to his team, Hardy ensured he stamped approval of everything coming in and out of McCormick Place, and wasn’t afraid to put his foot down.
“During his reign with the Teamsters, he wasn’t necessarily the most popular guy with the contractors,” Hogan said. “He would guard his work with his life, and if you thought you were going to unload a truck and not use Teamsters, you had another thing coming.
“He protected his jurisdiction with a vengeance. He was very fair and very conscious of what was happening. His attention to detail was beyond brutal.”
While he may have ruled with an iron fist during his career as chief steward, once retired, Hardy was then hired by the contractors.
“That tells you what type of guy he was right there,” Hogan said. “His outstanding quality was dependability.”
After his career as chief steward, Hardy started the Chicago Flower and Garden Show, where he remained the owner and show manager for nearly a decade.
“I can guarantee that if you were to ask any Teamster right now, they’d love to see him back,” Hogan said.
Although sick for the last several months of his life, Hogan said Hardy never lost that sense of humor.
Hardy was the beloved husband of Linda Nee Murphy, father of Kristina Hardy and grandfather of Nicholas Clark. He was born to John and Alice nee Schmidt and was a brother to John, Steven, Joan Niemi and the late Susan Dunn. Hardy was the son-in-law of the late Edward and Jane Murphy, brother-in-law of Kathy Peagram, Edward Murphy, Susan Hogan, Terrence Murphy and the late Joan Cherry. He was the uncle of 14 and the great uncle of eight.
Services were held Monday, May 26, at the Morning Star Mission in Joliet, Ill.