People attending the funeral service for Janet Hardie, better known as Dian, on Saturday heard how the poverty-stricken ‘girl’ from deep rural St Mary struggled from a roadside shop in her community to become the owner of businesses and posh houses on the island’s north coast.
Hardie was shot dead on May 28 during a domestic dispute with her police husband.
A relative of the deceased has suggested that, as part of a break-up deal before tragedy struck, the husband allegedly requested $38 million – among other things.
Hardie’s business partner and friend, Synatra Duncan-Kow, during the funeral service on Saturday, July 6, did not mention anything in relation to the husband.
She however noted that Hardie, 45, worked alone to build her houses and businesses.
“She built her house in Steer Town (St Ann) by herself; she built her beautiful home in St Mary by herself – piece by piece she did it, block by block. It took years, but she did it,” Duncan-Kow further declared.
She added: “Dian worked for her money – harder than most men. Trust mi, she wuk. She worked smart… We travelled all over for business. We went to Curacao, to Panama, to Miami, to Los Angeles. We packed bags; we pulled suitcases; we packed pallets; we [passed] Customs; we wooed customers. It was not an easy job, but we did it.”
Duncan-Kow noted that Hardie, after operating stores in St Ann’s Bay and Brown’s Town, recently went on to purchase the entire plaza where she once paid rent in St Ann’s Bay.
“It wasn’t easy to get it. It took months of negotiations with banks who would say ‘no’ at the last minute, and I would say ‘try this other bank‘. It took skills and cunnings and re-arranging her finances to get that place,” Duncan-Kow further told the gathering inside the New Testament Church of God in St Ann’s Bay.
She continued: “It was a celebration for me [to see Hardie acquire the property]. Hope I am not offending anybody, but when she got that place, mi seh ‘Yes, a one black man get it, a nuh di Chiney‘!”
Meanwhile, Hardie’s mother, Elaine Stephenson, indicated that her family had a tough start. “We are coming from the rugged side of the mountain – as a mother come up nuh have nuh food, nuh have nutten…” she said.
Her daughter, Hardie, had a knack for business. That became evident while she was enrolled at Castleton All Age School (now Castleton Junior High) in St Mary.
“Dian was a very young entrepreneur then, selling candy – sweetie as we called it, to make ends meet with her lunch money and things that she needed. She knew from an early age that she wanted to be a profitable businesswoman and to run her own business,” said Joan Kelly, aunt of the deceased.
Kelly, in presenting the eulogy, stated that Hardie, after leaving Tarrant High School in Kingston, started to sell from a roadside shop.
“Dian opened her first roadside shop at the centre of the Castleton community – selling bag juice, exercise books, pencils, sodas, crackers, and cheese tricks and everything that required licence,” Kelly said.
She stated that Hardie’s maternal grandmother eventually recognized her zest for selling and her warmth among people. The grandmother, in 1992, left Hardie to sell in her shop at Ocho Rios Craft Market in St Ann.
Hardie, motivated by her grandmother, eventually started her ‘little business’ in Ocho Rios, Kelly explained.
She continued: “Dian would purchase goods and, along with her brothers Alton and Marlon, she would sell in the Ocho Rios Market [and] Falmouth. Week after week, she would generate new ideas, and regularly travel to other islands – purchasing goods for resale.
“When she got her US visa, she was elated. California and Florida were the places for her to go because that’s where she said the hottest trends were,” Kelly added.
She stated that Hardie eventually opened her first store in St Ann’s Bay. “She was unstoppable and energized,” Kelly declared.
Hardie went on to open a store in Brown’s Town, where one of her sisters served as Manager.
Kelly, in summing up Hardie’s life as an entrepreneur, asserted: “Dian did not just fight for or work hard for a seat at the table. Diane created her own table and sat at the head of that table.”
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