On the last Saturday in July a group of friends sat in an East Chop backyard, shaded by beech trees and oaks. They remembered a woman who was a teacher, writer, activist, friend and mother to many. The day was Della Hardman Day, an annual event going back to 2005.

While the location, people involved and size of the event has changed, some things have stayed the same.

For one, Carleen Cordwell made the cheese plate.

“I did the food for the first ever Della Day,” she said. “It was at the Oak Bluffs Library. Everyone was so happy to be there with Della, and just savor the moment with her.”

Savor the moment was Ms. Hardman’s mantra. Through her weekly Oak Bluffs town columns in the Vineyard Gazette and her Island presence, she inspired many.

Savor the Moment — as essential a mantra today as it was in Della's time. — Jeanna Shepard

The town of Oak Bluffs voted to designate the last Saturday of July Della Hardman Day starting in 2005. Ms. Hardman died in December of that year, but her memory has lived on.

Della Day moved to Ocean Park, hosting large crowds and distinguished speakers over the years. Previous iterations have brought literary luminaries such as Nikki Giovanni, and Sonia Sanchez. The event has also hosted Khalil Gibran Muhammad, former director of the Schomburg Institute for Research on Black Culture, Carol Anderson, author of White Rage and former NAACP president, Cornell Brooks. In 2018, due to a speaker cancellation, the customary Della Day celebration did not take place.

This year, Della Day returned. Instead of Ocean Park, the celebration took place in the East Chop backyard adjoining the homes of Ms. Hardman and her daughter, Andrea Taylor. The mother/daughter pair spent the last years of Ms. Hardman’s life together as neighbors.

Ms. Taylor is president of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. She understands her mother’s legacy in terms of history and politics.

“As the world turns, we need to pause, and think about how we will continue to celebrate what my mother thought was so special about Martha’s Vineyard,” she said on Saturday. “We’ve got to continue savoring the moment. It is a timeless bit of advice. It works for all ages, all sizes, everybody. I want to let people know we are regrouping and rethinking.”

Keeping the memory alive. — Jeanna Shepard

Dr. Lorna Andrade, former vice president of the Martha’s Vineyard NAACP, felt it was only right to gather at Ms. Hardman’s home this year. “She just brought everyone together. To eat her poundcake, to talk about the news. She was at the center of entertaining. She still is.”

Ms. Cordwell said she feels Ms. Hardman’s presence all the time, but especially on Della Day. “She’s missed. It doesn’t even seem like 15 years. Her presence is felt at different political things, things for African Americans and women. She was so a part of it. The beginning of it all on the Island. She was always there.”

For Gerard Peterson, it all started with a knock. “I met her when she knocked on my door. She called me neighbor. In one hand she had a bouquet of flowers and in the other a pound cake.”

Mr. Peterson and Ms. Hardman became fast friends.

“You know, savor the moment,” continued Mr. Peterson, “She taught everybody in the world that, including me. I’d call her, and her machine would tell me to savor the moment. Today I have it on my wall. I think of her every time I look at it.”

Della Hardman had called Oak Bluffs home since 1986, and even obtained a key to the East Chop Lighthouse, where she wrote her dissertation.

“I loved being neighbors with my mother,” Ms Taylor said. “I didn’t know, but in the middle of the night she’d wake up and work on these fantastic art projects...Her white jeep is still parked just over there. She used to bounce down all the dirt roads in that thing.”

During the day, Ms. Hardman often made house calls.

“She’d just come on in unannounced, sometimes with pound cake, and I loved it,” said Connie Williams. “We’d talk about all things West Virginia, and she just made me feel at home. Her childhood sweetheart and husband, Leon, he refereed ball games when I was in high school.”

Ms. Williams, Ms. Hardman and Mr. Leon Hardman all attended Garnet High School in Charleston, W. Va. Ms. Hardman would go on to become an art history professor at West Virginia State University.

“We went to the Garnet, named after a black former slave and it was a great school,” Ms. Williams said. “Everyone else went to Washington, Eisenhower, white places.”

Education would prove to be a passion of Ms. Hardman’s on the Vineyard as well. Mr. Peterson remembered the way she interacted with the children of Oak Bluffs.

“The kids loved her,” he said. “She was a profound influence on the community. She never made anybody feel small. She was a great teacher. She always had something to question, to encourage.”