Since a stroke 15 years ago, 71-year-old William Hardin travels by motorized wheelchair—a 300-pound, battery-driven powerhouse that takes him everywhere. Not much stops him. Traffic? No problem. Rain? Not worth mentioning. Bitter cold? No big deal.
Though William may be shaking raindrops or snowflakes off the flashing lights on his helmet as he enters the Atrium at Southeast’s Blankenbaker Campus, he never complains—and he rarely misses a service.
“William is faithful, humble, and a big blessing to everyone,” said Larry Casper, who leads ushers and communion servers.
William rolls into Southeast early for services on Thursday nights and Sunday mornings, making his way through hallways and the Atrium to arrange communion cups on tables. He’s hard to miss—his 6-foot-5-inch frame folded in his chair, always smiling, greeting people as they come in, and ready to talk. In the last five years, William has become an Atrium celebrity.
“People at church are like my family,” he said.
It took staff and volunteers a while to understand William’s journey to serve each week.
He can call TARC, but getting to the church early matters to William. Long before services begin, he drives his wheelchair along busy streets like Blankenbaker Parkway, Watterson Trail, and Shelbyville Road and through parking lots and neighborhoods. It makes no difference if it’s daylight, dusk, or dark—whatever the season.
William’s helmet with flashing lights is hard to miss—most of the time. A few years ago, a young driver ran a red light and bumped his wheelchair. William was shaken, but not hurt. His wheelchair was fine, though the bumper of the driver’s car was damaged.
“I asked the driver of the car, a young man, where he was going,” William said. “I told him I would not say anything about the collision if he’d go to church. I hope he did.”
When ushers and communion servers heard about William’s challenging trek to church each week, they began collecting donations to buy him a van with special hand controls. In the meantime, a few friends with chairlifts offered to get him to the church building on time.
“This is my heart,” William said. “I want to be there. And I want my grandkids to know that their grandfather serves God—even in this small way.”
Sometimes one of his granddaughters helps him arrange communion cups on tables. Those are great days.
William comes from a long line of faith. He grew up in West Louisville, still a kid when his mother converted from Judaism to Christianity. He doesn’t remember going to church, but he does remember that decision made a difference in family life.
William attended Ahrens Technical High School, where he excelled on the wrestling team. After graduation, he worked a variety of jobs, including as a mechanic, in maintenance, selling insurance, and running a cleaning business. He carried his Bible in his truck.
“My dad wanted people to know that he follows Christ,” said William’s daughter, Monica Hardin. “That’s the story of his life. He finds purpose in serving.”
William met his wife on a blind date. They married, raised four children, and were married 46 years when she passed away from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. He retired early to care for her and began attending Southeast after talking with retired Senior Minister Bob Russell.
“I started as a greeter,” he said. “When that slowed down because of COVID, I began setting out communion. It is what I love to do.”
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