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mombabyMelody Lou Martin was born on December 26th, 1946 in West Palm Beach, Florida to David and Betty Martin.  She was a much-loved child and ultimately the only child that Betty would ever have.  Betty was also an only child and so Melody did not have a lot of extended family.  Later in life this led Melody to long for a large family of her own.

Although she was born in Florida, Melody grew up in Buckeye Lake, Ohio, in a little cottage not to far from the water.  Buckeye Lake was the home of the Buckeye Lake Amusement Park and that park was an integral part of Melody’s childhood. Melody was a happy child and very outgoing.  She had many talents and participated in a variety of activities in her youth, everything from Garden Club to playing the flute.

momtoddlerAs Melody grew, so did her love for the outdoors.  Her favorite things were flowers, but she also had quite an affinity for rocks, especially geods, and other wonders of nature. She was the apple of her mom’s eye and as the only child was doted on and spoiled with all the love a child could have. 

She was especially close to her grandfather, ‘Poppy Jim’ as he was called, who although he wasn’t her biological grandparent, never treated her as such.  He had a great influence in her life for many years because of that example of unconditional love.

As a child, she always lamented being born the day after Christmas, and in the winter in general, as she couldn’t really have all the fun outdoor birthday parties that her friends had.  Her birthday also often got lumped in with Christmas.  One year she held special in her heart was when her family decided to throw her have a birthday party in the summer.  That birthday definitely became one of those stories that she regaled to her own children in her adult years. momandparents

Melody’s parents eventually split up and she was left living with her mom and her grandparents and saw little of her father.  Eventually he would drift out of her life completely. Life moved on and Melody thrived with a busy social schedule and increasing responsibilities as she got older.  In addition to the Garden Club and learning the flute she also took up the baton and helped out her grandparents business at the Buckeye Lake Amusement Park.  Her family ran games like the balloon dart game and the penny pitch.  Again these experiences were  the things she told her children and grandchildren about for years to come. 

As an outgoing people-person, helping out didn’t often feel like a job at all, but an enjoyable part of every-day life. momteenEventually Melody got a job working at the skating rink that was a part of the amusement park.  She loved to roller skate and this job was right up her alley.  With the park within a short walking distance, this new responsibility was a perfect fit.  She loved this time in her life so much and held on to her jacket from the skating rink job and it still exists in the family to this day.  It is a cherished piece of memorabilia of her life as well as several outfits from her majorette days.

As she got older, other family responsibilities expanded for her as well and unfortunately this wasn’t just the normal teenage chores.  Family problems eventually led her to be a chauffeur of sorts once she got her license and she was often pulled out of school for various tasks for the family.  She was eventually pulled out of school so much that she didn’t have enough credits to graduate with her class her senior year and never achieved the high school diploma she spent her youth working towards.

Early Adulthood

momgaryMelody fell in love and married Gary Lee Grigsby.  Gary enlisted with the Marine Corps and Melody moved with Gary to California where he got stationed at Camp Pendleton.  Melody became pregnant with her first child in the fall of 1967.  That child, a daughter, was born in July of the following year after a very difficult pregnancy where at one point the nurses were unsure if her and/or her daughter would survive. A little over a year later Melody gave birth to her second child, a boy, after a normal pregnancy. 

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. momsharijamesAfter 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. momdadwedLess 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.

familyBlending 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. momkidsIn 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!