Hardman, 73, was the voice of CHP

Ronald Stuart Hardman, known for years as the voice of the California Highway Patrol in Modesto, died Monday morning at Doctors Medical Center after battling heart disease. He was 73.

Mr. Hardman "set the standard for public affairs officers in Modesto just by being the person he was," said Tom Killian, the current CHP spokesman. Mr. Hardman gave the CHP's traffic and fog reports on the radio for 12 years during the 1970s and 1980s.

Friends and family described him as "one of the good guys," a man with a big smile who loved practical jokes, ball games, golf and camellias.

Mr. Hardman was a charter member of the Sportsmen of Stanislaus and a member of Modesto's First Baptist Church. He worked for the Modesto Police Department from 1955 to 1958, then joined the CHP. Most recently, he was a safety officer for Storer Transportation.

He had a softer side, too. He grew, showed and judged camellias with his wife, Pat, for the Camellia Society of Modesto.

Mr. Hardman retired from the CHP in 1984 after working for the agency for 26 years, serving 15 of those as its local spokesman.

"He always seemed to be first on the scene," said former Stanislaus County Sheriff Les Weidman, who often ran into Mr. Hardman while working the graveyard shift as a deputy in south Modesto.

Until earlier this summer, Killian said, Mr. Hardman stopped by the Modesto CHP office monthly to ask how things were going and offer fatherly advice.

"Be yourself, be professional, have fun," are the words from Mr. Hardman that Killian said he will remember, and added that Mr. Hardman was a mentor to succeeding CHP spokesmen. Mr. Hardman emphasized a personal, respectful, friendly approach, spurning official words and an authoritarian attitude.

"When you give someone a traffic ticket, your goal is to have them thank you for it," his son, Scott Hardman, remembers his father telling him when the younger Hardman was a Stanislaus County sheriff's deputy. During his early years, deputies called him "Ron" or even "Hardman's son," because his father's legacy was so great, he said.

Mr. Hardman loved working with children, going into Modesto schools to teach bicycle and traffic safety, said his wife.

Donald L. Kendall, one of Mr. Hardman's best friends, recalled "always knocking around" with him, panning for gold in the mountains outside Sonora and attending football games at Modesto High School, from which they both graduated in the early 1950s. The men called each other "Skippy" as a name of endearment. Kendall couldn't remember the origin of the nickname, which they started using in 1960s.

"Skippy" wasn't his only nickname.

"I always called him 'Buddy,' because he was my buddy," said son-in-law Isaac Enwia, who described Mr. Hardman as gentle and understanding. "He was just a good guy."

Along with his wife and son, Mr. Hardman is survived by daughter Julie Enwia of Modesto, three grandchildren and one great-grandchild. He also leaves one brother, Max Hickle of Munroe Falls, Ohio.

There will be a memorial serv-ice at 10 a.m. Thursday at the First Baptist Church of Modesto, 808 Needham St.

Remembrances may be sent to the American Heart Association at 1710 Gilbreth Road, Burlingame, 94010-1795.

Bee staff writer Emilie Raguso can be reached at eraguso@modbee.com or 578-2235.