‘Love hard and live hard’: Candace Hart-Hathaway celebrated for her boldness

By Kimberly Kapela, Copy Editor

Ruth Johnson

Candace Hart-Hathaway, an American Sign Language Department staff interpreter and coordinator at Columbia since 2009, died peacefully on Aug. 25. She was surrounded by loved ones in her Michigan home after a battle with cancer. She was 51.

Her sister, Isabella Hart, described her as “compassionate” and “empathetic.” Hart said people sometimes felt intimidated by her sister because she spoke her truth and what she believed in with confidence.

“Some people I think felt intimidated, but I think they felt intimidated because it was her strength,” Hart said. “That’s what Candace was for a lot of people.”

One of the ways Hart-Hathaway is remembered within the ASL Department and in her family is for her “love language” of sharing food, especially candy.

“That was her language of love; she always made sure that there was so much food for everyone, and she would put so much work into the display of food, the food she provided,” Hart said.

In addition to being an interpreter, Hart-Hathaway loved theatre and took film classes at Columbia and wanted to pursue her passion further. Hart-Hathaway was heavily involved in the Chicago theatre and film communities as the platform interpreter.

“Loving stage and theatre, but then getting up and doing it [interpreting], and you’re doing it in a different platform, it’s still scary,” Hart said. “I think every time she did that, she was really just proud of that. She got up there, and she did it.”

Hart’s biggest message since her sister’s passing is to “love hard and live hard.” Throughout Hart-Hathaway’s two-year battle with cancer, her sister described her as relentless in her loving and relentless in her fight.

“It’s funny that her middle name is ‘Star,'” Hart said. “She literally is like a star, a shining star, who touched every single person that knew her.”

ASL Department Chair Peter Cook has known Hart-Hathaway for more than 27 years. The two worked together at Columbia since 2009 and traveled the world as interpreters.

Cook said Hart-Hathaway was an intimidating soul for people’s first impressions.

“Later, after they got to know her, they realized that her passions and beliefs were to support everyone in every community,” Cook said. “She fought so hard for our Deaf community to make sure that every deaf person had access. … Candace was very strong and fierce; she was bold; she would express her feelings, even if they weren’t well received.”

Hart-Hathaway was supportive of everyone on Columbia’s campus, Cook said. Her responsibilities included assigning interpreters for ASL faculty, providing tutoring support for interpreting students and working with department chairs to expand access space for Columbia’s broader community.

“She always had a positive light and positive energy,” Cook said. “She just had a unique perspective in terms of diversity issues, interpreting issues, Deaf rights. She always challenged us to do better. She really pushed us; she really pushed us to get where we are today.”

Cook said some of Hart-Hathaway’s proudest achievements included being a professional, nationally certified interpreter. She had a master’s license in Illinois, one of the highest rankings one can achieve in ASL interpreting. Hart-Hathaway was also a proud mother to her son, Ethan.

Cook, who is Ethan’s father, remembers Hart-Hathaway most fondly by her motto, “if you wanted to improve the world, you have to improve yourself first.”

Cook said Hart-Hathaway “became so prolific in her craft and in her field. She traveled the world; she worked with different deaf scholars and different deaf actors. … She has so many accomplishments, it’s really hard [to] give you credence to all of them, but she had a wonderful, amazing life.”

He said she made a significant impact on him as well as the broader community.

“She was always pushing me to strive for more, and I think that was just a unique thing that she has always encouraged for others,” Cook said. “She had such an amazing influence on the interpreting profession and community.”

Hart-Hathaway is survived by her loving husband of 12 years, Daniel Hathaway, and their dog Hopper, along with her son Ethan and his spouse, Allyson Hart-Cook. She is also survived by her mother and stepfather, Candy Hart and Chris Gadziala; her sister Isabella Hart and her spouse, Kelly Kircher; along with her nephew and nieces Julian, Jenna and Ava, according to an email statement from the Columbia Office of the Provost.

Hart-Hathaway loved her adopted dog Hopper from PAWS-Chicago Rescue/Shelter. Those who would like to honor her memory and love of animals can contribute to PAWS-Chicago.