Jean Hardwick and her children are sorting and tagging the wooden boxes full of thousands of butterflies family patriarch Bob dutifully collected from all over the world.
Those for display earn a red tag. The family is looking for the colorful, the fascinating and the unique. All those words could be used to describe Bob, who died Sept. 4, 2014 at the age of 72.
His was an outdoors adventurer that was always willing to share his time and knowledge. On a trip to Trout Lake for his and Jean’s 50th anniversary last summer, the pair went white water rafting. Over the years they traveled the world, including a short teaching stint in Nigeria.
His collection of butterflies will be on display from 1 to 5 p.m. March 28 at the United Methodist Church, 7400 Pioneer Way. Admission is free. Jean and the rest of the Hardwick family want to share Bob’s passion with the greater community.
“A lot of our friends and family have wanted to see his collection out and displayed,” Jean said.
As Jean sorts through her late husband’s things, her depth of knowledge grows. For example, she knew he had boxes of butterflies, but she never realized just how many.
“I’m getting to know my husband more and more,” she said.
Formerly a teacher in Tacoma, after retirement Bob became involved with the Washington State Butterfly Association and printed a book with photos and descriptions of the butterflies he spotted.
After the Gig Harbor exhibition, the collection will be donated to Oregon State University for study and maintenance.
His love of biology began early. Bob’s mother, in his baby book, described an inquisitive 2-year-old: "He would rather play with nice woolly caterpillars and lady bugs or most any kind of a bug than a toy."
As a boy, he would visit his uncle, a curator of the aquarium at the San Francisco Zoo.
“He would take Bob out in the field and acquaint him with all kinds of life,” Jean said. “He became fascinated with the variations of butterflies.”
He had a love of nature that transcended butterflies. His daughter, Jennie Bevan, 37, remembers family camping trips fondly.
When she and her siblings would find something like a frog while camping, Bob would suggest they keep it and raise it.
“I always associate my dad with nature,” she said.
For son Jeff Hardwick, 35, it wasn’t that odd to grow up around butterflies.
“From our standpoint, we thought it was normal,” he said.
Jean says that in the couple’s marriage she was the very detail-oriented one, while Bob often skipped over things. But not when it came to butterflies. Each of the 102 boxes are full of butterflies that have been sorted, pinned down and labeled with tiny tags with perfect lettering showing the species and his name.
Jean sums up the collection in two words: “It’s remarkable.”