Jeannette Gottlieb Hardy

January 15, 1943October 12, 2020

Jeannette Gottlieb Hardy, a legendary New Orleans journalist who fostered some of the city’s most prominent writers and later took up writing herself, died Sunday in the home she dearly loved near Bayou St. John. She was 77.

In the course of her career, she became the editor of nearly every writerly publication in the city at the time, injecting each one with new potency and panache. It began when she bought the Vieux Carre Courier in 1970, then went on to head up New Orleans Magazine. A few years later, she joined the States-Item staff and took charge of Lagniappe, the Friday arts and leisure tabloid. Another few years after that, she became editor of Dixie, the Times-Picayune’s Sunday rotogravure magazine.

“She was a superb editor,” said Charles Ferguson, onetime editor of the Times-Picayune. “An idea person. She was always able to get good writers to write for her.”

Her passion for the arts was wide and deep and she had an abiding respect for all forms of creativity — from architecture to movies, from photography to music.

“Ginny was charmed by beauty in every form,” said Gwen Thompkins, longtime friend and host of the public radio program “Music Inside Out”

But her most passionate devotion was to writers and writing. She had a deep respect for the process and a tender touch with reporters, especially the eccentric or erratic ones. She would edit a story with the writer sitting next to her, an unusual arrangement in a high-pressure newsroom. She had an endless stock of ideas for stories that were up-to-the-minute timely and always substantial.

For her last years at the newspaper, she wrote a column on gardening in New Orleans, a subject she took on with all her intellectual vibrancy. In the process, she was inspired to create her own ambitious garden, lovingly curated and bursting with life, from fragrant gingers to old roses. It also inspired her 2001 book, “The Gardens of New Orleans: Exquisite Excess,” a definitive work on the subject with photographs by Richard Sexton.

Born and bred in Margate, New Jersey, in an art-filled house just steps from the Atlantic Ocean, Ginny graduated from Cabrini University near Philadelphia. Then she took to the road and sampled some of America, including a stint in Hawaii and a short stay in Alaska, where she arrived with a truck full of watermelons that she sold for cash to live on.

And then, in 1969, she came to New Orleans.

“That’s when she began her love affair with her beloved city,” said Lisa Gottlieb-Fernandez, who visited her big sister frequently.

“At night she would take me down to the docks behind Jax Brewery, with beer foam coming out of the manholes, and we would watch the exoticism of the ships from South America being unloaded.”

Ginny’s love-life included three husbands: lawyer James Derbes, the late McCall “Chappy” Hardy, who worked in the film industry, and the late Bill Grady, a Times-Picayune feature writer whose stories she edited for several years before their marriage.

She had one son, McCall Hardy, known from birth as Zephyr, nicknamed after the roller-coaster at Pontchartrain Beach. As he came of age, he developed a talent for technology and a serious reservoir of sports minutiae. For over a decade, he has worked for ESPN, traveling the world to sports events and providing stats and storylines to on-air commentators and on-air graphics.

He and his mother shared custody of Harry, a frisky Cavalier King Charles spaniel. Mother and son also adored each other’s company and traveled together at least once a year.

“We were great travel companions because we accentuated each other’s skills,” Zeph said. “I would find the restaurants with good local food that we couldn’t find at home. She was great at finding those out-of-the-way gems like the ancient textile museum in Toronto or the giant greenhouse in Vancouver.

“She had a never-ending sense of curiosity and that’s basically what life should be: a continuous quest for knowledge.”

Ginny was willowy and chic and graceful. Whether dressed for an outing or for pulling weeds from her garden, she had an inadvertent elegance. Stylish eyeglasses were a staple of her wardrobe.

She was wide open to ideas and always ready to listen. Her conversational style was compelling but never domineering. She was sharp-minded and knowledgable in wide-ranging areas, from City Hall politics to Victorian architecture, from professional tennis to local gossip, from New Orleans uptowners to New Orleans downtowners. With close friends, there were comfortable moments of silence, succeeded sometimes by a new insight, sometimes by a new subject. Some subjects were visited again and again over the years. Conversations were never over.

She had sophisticated but unaffected tastes — in decor, in entertaining, in friends. And in restaurants. She would put up with a posh restaurant if she had to. But she liked nothing better than Middle Eastern haunts, Greek joints and Latin American cafes. And most of all, she liked Crescent City Steakhouse and martinis at the bar at College Inn. “I will miss our rides around the city in search of interesting architectural sites and obscure places to lunch,” said artist Elizabeth Shannon.

Her house was full of overstuffed bookcases. Some of her favorite authors were Joan Didion, Graham Greene and Virginia Woolf. She sometimes inspired fledgling writers by giving them copies of Lillian Ross’s “Reporting” and Gay Talese’s “Fame and Obscurity.” Some of her all-time favorite books were “Cross Creek” by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and “A Far Cry From Kensington” by Muriel Spark.

“She told me that on some days, rather than start the day cramming news, she'd shut it all out and read a novel, a tiny rebellion against the march of work,” said Anne Veigle, a onetime newspaper colleague.

In the end, although Ginny always claimed not to have a sense of humor, she most certainly did. She was lively company with a keen wit and a penchant for hilarious sarcasm. She was once interviewed on the subject of Louisiana irises by NPR’s Scott Simon. She was in a boat in Jean Lafitte National Park and he asked her about Lafitte’s historical significance.

“He’s our patron pirate,” she said without hesitation.

Ginny was a mediocre poker player, a daunting pundit, a sucker for a beautiful car, a captivating storyteller, an aesthetic minimalist, an enemy of pretension, a collector of New Orleans idiosyncrasies and a wonderful, wonderful friend.

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Jeannette Gottlieb Hardy

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Jeannette Gottlieb Hardy

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S. Johnson

October 21, 2020

With condolences to the family from a Lepage St. neighbor.

karin giger eustis

October 21, 2020

Zeph....we loved both your mother and father, and have known you since you were an infant. we miss them both, and think of them often, usually with a smile or a laugh. please know that we share your sorry in losing your wonderful mother. she was so wry and smart and lovely, and both a good conversationalist and a great listener. i hope you have many fine memories, and always feel that new orleans is home.
karin giger eustis

Candy (Kirby) Cranch, M.Ed., NBCT

October 19, 2020

Dear Zeph, Keeping you close to my heart. Your Mother was amazing in so many ways. Love to you always. Candy (former Art Educator at St. Andrew's Episcopal School).

Sarah Bertrand

October 19, 2020

Mrs Ginny,
Words cannot express the sadness my mother and I feel in our hearts, but we are not bitter knowing that you are in a much better place. We were beyond blessed to have worked for you for 20 years. Thank you so much for loving my Logan with all your heart, thank you for loving my mother and seeing her as your friend and not as your employee. Thank you for your trust, thank you for your love, THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING. I am so glad I got to tell you "I love you" the last Friday we worked for you 10/09/2020 just know that we already miss you, our Mondays and Fridays are never going to be the same WITHOUT YOU :( we are heartbroken but happy you are up in heaven with Buck, Lloyd, Poody and Elwood. We will for ever keep an eye oh Harry and Zeph for you WE PROMISE! WE LOVE YOU SO MUCH AND WE ALREADY MISS YOU LIKE CRAZY


Ps: my mom said AY LOS HOMBRES, AY LA VIDA ❤️❤️ (Your 2 favorite spanish sayings)


Hayes Ferguson

October 18, 2020

What a beautiful tribute, by one of my favorite TP writers about one of my favorite editors. Betsy captures perfectly the uber cool Ginny I remember from childhood. I was fortunate to be able to pull up a seat next to her when she edited stories of mine years later. My condolences to her family.


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