Mrs. Ardell (Ridgell) Hanley, passed away peacefully on December 10, 2021, in Gary, IN. Ardell was born on April 7, 1925 in Monticello, Arkansas, to James and Mamie (Johnson) Ridgell. Ardell was the youngest 96-year-old one would ever meet. Mrs. Hanley, raised on a farm, was the sixth of 10 children. Ardell accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior at an early age at Mt. Zion A.M.E., Monticello, Arkansas.
Mrs. Hanley was educated at Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical and Normal College (University of Arkansas), where she studied Home Economics. While home for spring break one year, she met “the man of her dreams,” Willie Van Hanley, Sr., and married him in 1946. They relocated to Gary, IN in 1947. From that union, six children were born -five boys: Willie Van Hanley, Jr., Ronald (Michelle), James, Michael (Victoria), and Shedrick Hanley; and one girl: Tami (Hanley) Martin.
Mama Hanley, as she was called by her many “adopted” children around the country, attended Putnam Beauty College in Gary, IN and became a licensed cosmetologist. Mrs. Hanley worked at Eddie Graves Beauty Salon until her youngest child, Tami, was born when she became an entrepreneur and opened her licensed beauty shop at her home where she resided for the past 60 years.
“When my mother died at the young age of 41, Ardell Hanley made sure that my father and my siblings were shown a mother’s love. She would cook dinner for us, invite us over to her family gatherings and pray for us and with us.” Gary Chamber of Commerce CEO Charles “Chuck” Hughes said. “She will always be Mother Hanley to me and I will miss her dearly.”
For over 70 years, Mrs. Hanley was a faithful member of First A.M.E. Church in Gary, IN. She was an “all-out” worker serving in various positions including the Chancellor Choir, Steward emeritus, Courtesy Guild, Rachel Unit of the Nora F. Taylor Women’s Missionary Society, and many Women’s Day committees. Mama Hanley was a visionary, missionary, teacher, student, mother to many but the daughter of only one God! This phenomenal woman was a humble servant and frequently reminded us all, “To God be the Glory.”
“Mrs. Hanley and her family have been excellent neighbors and great friends,” Lamar Taylor, former Deputy Chief of Police and Mrs. Hanley’s neighbor since 1968 said. “When you talk about success over the years of programs and individuals including those that have been elected to office Mrs. Hanley has been a major player. She was just a wonderful, wonderful person.”
When former Mayor Richard Hatcher was seeking his first term election, Mrs. Hanley decided to get involved in politics to help elect the City of Gary’s and the country’s first Black mayor. She worked under the Hatcher administration in several key positions but was most proud of her work as the first woman deputy to work for the City of Gary’s Weights and Measures Department, and in the Office of Consumer Affairs, providing legal and advocacy assistance to citizens that could not afford an attorney or exceeded income requirements.
“I will always remember when we were working on getting the National Civil Rights Hall of Fame in Gary and how Mrs. Hanley, who was in her 90s, continued to serve on the advisory committee. Ron Matlock, former Calumet Township Board Member, said. “Her death is a great loss to this community.”
“Ardell to me was a person that loved the city of Gary unconditionally. It never mattered who was the mayor of this city,” Sherylin Freeland-McCrady, former project director for Congressman Peter J. Visclosky. “She always supported the very best to make Gary great. Ardell was very instrumental in the community celebrating Martin Luther King’s birthday with her Dream of Dreamers organization. She was a great supporter of Mayor Richard G. Hatcher and a even greater supporter of the Gary Crusader Newspaper.”
Mrs. Hanley was a very active member of society and volunteered with several organizations. She was the longest serving Vice Precinct Committeeperson for Precinct G3-17 in the City of Gary. In 2003, she founded the Dream of Dreamers, an annual celebration marking the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as well as the significant contributions of African Americans to society and to the world. She was also a member of the advisory committee for the National Civil Rights Hall of Fame.
“I will remember her as a public servant who was constantly working to improve the quality of life for people in Gary. Every day that I would see her, her favorite conversation was what can I do to help my people.” WLTH Radio Station Owner Marion Williams said.
Ardell was a ray of sunshine, living life to the fullest over her 96 years. She was a member of the Elite Matrons Fashion Shows as a young woman and remained elegantly fashionable. Mrs. Hanley walked five miles per day for 35 years at the Tolleston school track. Later, as a gift to herself, she purchased a new car for her 88th birthday, which she enjoyed driving to the local YWCA for water aerobics classes three days per week.
Ardell’s beloved sons preceded her in death: Willie Van, Jr., Ronald, Michael, and Shedrick Hanley. All nine of her siblings precede her death: Colin Burt; Gertrude Ridgell; Clovern Lambert; Eula Mae Wright; Otis Ridgell; Ruth Wells; Ernestine Colbert; Roscoe Ridgell; and Verline Phelps.
She leaves to cherish her memory, her: Son: James “Ed” Hanley; and Daughter: Tami (Hanley) Martin; Grandchildren: Rhonda Hanley, Mia Hanley-Stearns, Brandon Hanley, Marlon Hanley, Michael Hanley II, Justin Hanley, and Tyler Martin; Great grandchildren: DeVaughn Hanley, Cameron Lynch, Latrell Stearns, Karsyn Hanley, and Mason Hanley; Goddaughters: Diane Gordon, Brenda Charmayne Scott, and Tammi Davis; Godsons: Chuck Hughes, and Robert McCrady; “Her Keith” Ward; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends. Mrs. Ardell Hanley will eternally be missed.