As with all families in the military, the family was without the father part of the time and Melody was a strong woman dealing with doing everything at home when needed without the aid of family. The other military wives became her surrogate family. After coming back from a combat zone, Gary was never the same and their marriage would eventually fall apart.
Melody moved herself and her 2 young children back to Buckeye Lake, Ohio to be close to her family and to find a fresh start. Melody settled back into life in Ohio and her old stomping grounds, reconnecting with family and friends. Melody even joined a Christian singles club and on May 26th, 1974 she met William Sherman Hardwick Sr. at one of their events. He saw her from across the room and asked her to dance. Bill was also divorced and had 3 children from a previous marriage, ranging in age from 10 to 13.
Bill and Melody had a fast and furious courtship and before they knew it they were talking about making a life together. Melody had always wanted a big family so she was up for the challenge. Less than three months after they met on the dance floor of a Christian single’s club event, Bill and Melody were saying their “‘I do’s”. Melody’s children, now ages 5 and 6, served as the flower girl and the ring bearer in a small, mostly family, ceremony.
At this point, only Melody’s children were living with the newlyweds, but that would all change one night when Bill’s ex-wife, who had primary physical custody of their three children, would show up on their doorstep one night and ask Bill and Melody to take the children. Melody opened her heart and her home to this new family unit, her very own version of the tv show, The Brady Bunch.
Blending two families together isn’t always the easiest thing, and it certainly presented a unique set of challenges with such a large family, but together Bill and Melody navigated these uncharted waters. Life was busy raising a newly created family of 5 kids, 3 boys and 2 girls, but that didn’t stop Bill and Melody from wanting their own child as well. It wasn’t long before they found out that their family of 5 would expand yet again to include a new child of their very own. In the summer of 1975, Bill and Melody welcomed a little girl into the world, rounding out their family to three boys and three girls, ranging in age from newborn to 15.
As their family expanded it seemed like their living quarters shrunk so they had several moves in their first few years of marriage. Eventually they rented a mobile home in the country. Their landlord owned several mobile homes and a house on the property that he rented out and he was looking for someone to help manage his properties. This opportunity seemed to be a great fit for them and appeared to be an easy enough responsibility, but the stories they could tell you would make your hair stand up on end! There certainly was nothing boring about their new life in the country!