Drumming to the rhythm of her own beat

Hansville’s Jane Hardy, 80, doesn’t let rheumatoid arthritis keep her from her gig as a drummer with The Jems.  - Courtesy photo
Hansville’s Jane Hardy, 80, doesn’t let rheumatoid arthritis keep her from her gig as a drummer with The Jems.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Hansville drummer

discovers key to a full life

HANSVILLE — Her fingers are stiff, bent — a product of rheumatoid arthritis. Blue lines travel the backs of her hands, speckled with tea-colored spots. They are beautiful, 80-year-old hands belonging to Hansville’s Jane Hardy. They are hands that lend the heartbeat to her drums.

But the woman can also smash a symbol.

Hardy has jammed on drum sets since she was in third grade and played in symphonies in Washington D.C., Seattle, Alaska and California. In one of her upcoming gigs she’ll play World War II-era tunes for residents at Martha & Mary in Poulsbo. She likes to point out she still drives herself to and from her performances.

Hardy — all five feet of her — exudes a sort of spunkiness to her band, The Jems. She’s been drumming with them for more than 30 years, despite her sometimes crippling arthritis pain.

When Hardy’s hands cramp worse than normal she tells her bandmates, “give me a cup of coffee and tape,” and fashions her drumsticks to her wrists.

“I don’t drink coffee,” she said. “I drink it and then they have to scrape me off the ceiling. It’s my one drug I’ve got in the background if I need it.”

While her friends sip coffee, Hardy gulps chocolate milk.

“When you’re 80, you can do anything you want,” she said. “I think all 80-year-old women got to have chocolate. That’s the big thing in our lives now our husbands are gone. We’ve got to have chocolate.”

For Hardy, life is a string of comedies taped together by her passion for music and drums.

She keeps the Solitarian Hansville women – all of whom are widows – rolling with laughter from her life stories. On Friday, all the women gathered once again at the Hansville Store. It’s their regular, weekly meeting to socialize.

“She’s the most interesting one of the group,” said Jeanne Nicholson, smiling.

But Hardy shrugs it off, instantly launching into a notorious incident of wearing fake eyelashes years ago. She was trying to “spiffy up” her own blonde lashes. She reached to shake hands with someone she was trying to impress, when she saw – in her full martini glass – an eyelash floating just below the rim.

“I do feel these gals bring out the best in me,” Hardy said, while the women roared. “The reason we’re all here is this is where our husbands wanted to retire and they passed away. We all stayed and are taking care of each other. Instead of laughing alone, we laugh together.”

If you ask her, the only things she has to talk about this week are the mice droppings she found in her car and her bathroom plumbing.

“Right now all I do is complain about the mouse that lives in my car and the innards of my toilet tank, so you can see how exciting that is,” she said, straight-faced. The women around her laughed, clutching their stomachs.

“I’ve got to make a decision on a plumber but in the meantime I just put signs up that say please don’t flush this toilet.”

She hopes her cats don’t forget.

“Are you talking about your toilet again, Jane?” chuckled JoAnn Burns.

But between keeping up on her home, car and privileges to her driver’s license, Hardy still finds time for her performances with The Jems. The next one takes place at 2:30 p.m., Oct. 2 at Martha and Mary.

Although she continues to learn about plumbing, home repair and rodent extermination, Hardy said she may have already figured out life’s most important lessons.

After eight decades, she found life runs on three things: “Friends, music and chocolate,” she said. “Don’t forget the chocolate.”

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