Paul and Linda Hardaway first met at the original Zionist Baptist Church on Maple Avenue when they were both starry-eyed teenagers. For 13-year-old Linda, it was love at first sight — so much so that she even bet her friend (now sister-in-law) a dollar that she was going to win Paul's heart. For 14-year-old Paul, it was only a matter of time before Linda won the bet.
The two have been together ever since.
“We got married in our late teens and became parents right away,” Paul, now 55, said. “I left for the Air Force five days later. My first station assignment was in Rome, N.Y. So, that’s where we went.”
From Rome, the Hardaways shipped off to the Philippines for three years. Then, they went to North Dakota.
“We loved it there, but it was so cold,” said Linda, 53. “Colder than Buffalo’s cold. Temps would get down to minus 50. We had oil block heaters for the cars so that the oil wouldn’t freeze.
"We lived there for about five years.”
The Hardaways moved back to Buffalo after Paul left the service. It was 1992. Their kids were young and they didn’t want the kids to spend their childhood moving from place to place, so Paul got a job and eventually went back to school. He graduated from Medaille College in 2002 and secured a position at American Axle.
Four years later, the company closed. There weren’t a lot of job opportunities in Buffalo at the time, and Paul says he had to make a decision for the benefit of the family. Instead of staying and struggling to find another job, he decided to head South, where the jobs were.
“We moved just outside of Memphis, Tenn. I got a job at Carrier, and we stayed for three years,” Paul said. “Then I got a job offer to work for Raytheon in Boston, Mass. We packed up and moved again.”
Name: Paul and Linda Hardaway
Ages: 55, 53
Current location: Williamsville
Previous locations: Rome, N.Y.; the Phillippines; North Dakota; Memphis, Tenn.; Boston, Mass.
Loves most about Buffalo: The people; the small-town feel; new restaurants; downtown
Place they've lived that they enjoyed the most: North Dakota
“Boston was tough,” Linda added. “It’s such a big city, and at one point I said to him, I can’t do this anymore. I miss Buffalo.”
In August 2015, the Hardaways traveled back to Buffalo for a weekend to attend a wedding. They noticed how vibrant the city was, especially downtown. That Sunday, they attended church and prayed for an opportunity to move home again. Thirty days later, Paul had a job offer for a company in Springville. Once he got the job, they put their house up for sale on a Friday. It sold that same weekend. By November 2015, the Hardaways were back in Buffalo. For good.
“People have asked me time and time again why I wanted to come back to Buffalo,” Linda said. “I told them, we’ve been all over the world and I just missed it. This is where we belong.”
The Hardaways insist they are never moving again. There’s too much to love and do in the city, including plays, concerts, outdoor activities, incredible food and more. Though they live in Williamsville, they often head downtown to catch a concert at the Tralf or a show at Shea’s, or to try one of the countless restaurants that have popped up in the past few years. Above all else, they like being out and about in the city and interacting with people. Because it’s the people from Buffalo, Linda says, that they missed most.
“We have a lot of cherished memories here,” she said. “We grew up here. We fell in love here. We were married here. Our kids grew up here. It’s just home.”
In the 40 years that span the Hardaways' relationship, they’ve lived in different parts of the country and around the world. And everywhere they’ve gone, they’ve applied for and gotten “NLUV4LIFE” license plates.
“I love my wife so much because she has followed me everywhere we’ve gone,” Paul said. “I told her that if there was a chance for us to get back to Buffalo that I would make that happen for her. God made it happen.”
If you or anyone you know has a story to tell about moving back or to Buffalo, or about moving away, email LynsD21@gmail.com.
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