Keith and his father

Keith Willis Hardacker, the only child of Cecil Irene Mills and Floyd Austin Hardacker, was born in 1924. Both the Mills and Hardacker families were Pioneers in Outagamie county in Wisconsin, settling there in 1848.

The Appleton High School band on parade

As a boy, Keith took up the drums. (I'm sure his mother was thrilled.) He played with the Sons of the American Legion Drum and Bugle Corps, which was associated with the local VFW post. He continued to play during high school and college. While in the Navy, Keith was a percussionist in a Navy band which performed at the White House.

In uniform, 1945

Keith enlisted in the Navy shortly after entering college, so he attended school wherever the Navy sent him -- Lawrence College in Appleton, Columbia University, and the University of Wisconsin at Madison, graduating with a degree in physics. He also spent some time with the Navy in the Pacific.

After college Keith joined the Institute of Paper Chemistry as a Research Associate in the paper physics group. He wrote such influential articles as "The automatic recording of the load-elongation characteristics of single papermaking fibers" (Tappi 45(3:237-246), 1963).

But even more importantly, he met Margaret Stevenson, who was working in the Institute library. He must have fulfilled the dating requirements:

Rooty-toot-toot, rooty-toot-toot,
We're the girls from the Institute.
We don't smoke and we don't chew
And we don't go with boys who do!


Keith and Margaret were married in 1950 in Appleton. Keith's parents are on the right. My grandmother apparently tried to steal a little attention by donning a headress made out of gladioli.

There were advantages to having a physicist as a father. Supplies for science experiments were always available, and, of course, there was in-house help with homework. Well, "help" is a loaded word. Scientific methods were used. We had to laboriously gather all the necessary evidence and supporting information, then apply logic and intuition to solve the problem. We tried pleas for sympathy. "Dad, just tell me the answer. Fifth grade only lasts a year." It never worked. But I realize now that the skills I employ as a software developer, a profession which requires both logic and intuition, were learned from those early homework sessions.

Christmas 1956

This is first, and I believe only, family Christmas photograph (l-to-r: me, Margaret with my sister, Maud, Keith with my brother, Jed). My sister was teased relentlessly for years after this picture was taken.

I think my father was holding an automatic shutter release in his hand, hence the fist.

(Recently I was told that there was one more family Christmas picture. The universal reaction was "Nice picture of the dog!". It has apparently been lost.)

And here we are 43 years later.

The photographer gets snapped.

A life-long member of the First Congregational Church in Appleton, Wisconsin, Keith designed and installed the sound system in the new building. He worked with youth musicals and maintained a catalogue of tapes of special music programs. He also served on the history committee, researching, collecting and copying the photographs used in the recent book, "The Open Door: A History of First Congregational Church" by Rev. John T. McFadden.

Keith retired from the Institute in 1989 just before it was moving from Appleton to Atlanta. He was able to remove the laboratory/office he had designed and install it in his basement.

In retirement, he pursued interests in photography, genealogy, computer programming (on an Osborne 1!), and clock repair. The repair work triggered an interest in building clocks and he built several elaborate clock mechanisms from brass sheet and tube stock. They will tick on long after the rest of us are gone.