A year ago last Sunday, Columbia County lost its longest-serving county official, Pat Hardaway.
County officials honored her memory Wednesday by unveiling a portrait of the late county Probate Court judge, one of two that will adorn the halls of both county courthouses.
“You think of her as being just and fair and compassionate,” 10th District Chief Superior Court Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet said at the ceremony, held in the courtroom she always used at the Columbia County Justice Center in Evans. “She was a great patriot, not only for this country, but this county.”
Hardaway, who served the county for 47 years and spent 30 years as the Probate Court judge, died July 15, 2011.
Hardaway was a strong-willed woman who took her role as judge very seriously. She always had the interests of the county and state in mind, county Commission Chairman Ron Cross said.
“She really had Columbia County deep in her heart from the first day I met her to the last,” Cross said. “For that, Columbia County owes her a great debt.”
Hardaway’s portrait will hang inside the Probate Court office she oversaw. A second portrait will grace the Columbia County Courthouse in Appling, which she enthusiastically worked to preserve.
“Without Pat, that place would not be like it is today,” Overstreet said. “It is a great preservation of a historical structure ... It is a mainstay, and she was a driving force in that.
“I think it’ll be fitting that she’ll still have a presence up in Appling.”
Hardaway’s family, including husband Doug and daughters Penny Saggus and Pam Postell, attended the ceremony.
“We know Mom would be both honored and humbled by this,” Saggus said. “We thank y’all for remembering her.
“We all know she loved Columbia County, and we think it showed in her 47 years of service.”
Saggus said Appling’s historic courthouse as well as the county’s history were a passion for Hardaway.
“Appling was her love,” Saggus said. “That was her heart.”
Friends and colleagues also remembered Hardaway and shared stories of how she affected their lives.
State Rep. Lee Anderson said Hardaway helped him obtain a marriage license – one he forgot – on his wedding day 31 years ago. County Emergency and Operations Division Director Pam Tucker said Hardaway presided over her wedding.
Current Probate Court Judge Alice Padgett said she and her staff had Hardaway’s distinctive blue robe set into a shadow box and hung inside the court hearing room.
“We just thought that would be something really special to do with her robe in her honor,” Padgett said. “I didn’t follow in her footsteps. I got a black robe. I can’t fill her shoes, I certainly can’t fill her robe either.”