NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – We’re learning more about the Norfolk couple killed while visiting Hawaii.
Michelle and Ronald Hartman were on the trip supporting their daughter, Holly when they died in a head-on car crash. Holly was the only survivor but still has a long road ahead of her.
Friends of the couple say Michelle and Ronald were so excited about this trip to support their daughter who was participating in a Spartan race. They say it was all Michelle could talk about for weeks because she was so excited to visit.
The couple has two other children in addition to Holly and were both active in the community, especially Michelle.
Michelle was supposed to be back at rehearsal Thursday night with one of the groups she sings with, “The Commodores.”
“We expected to have her here tonight in the risers,” said Arlene Constant.
She sang tenor and was the first female member of the all-male group. Though practice began on a low note, her presence was felt.
“I didn’t have words,” said Commodore Chorus Director, Tyler Donohoo. “I was in shock, I still kind of am if I am being 100 percent honest.”
Donohoo says Michelle was one of his Assistant Directors. He says she was always smiling and was incredibly passionate about music.
“She was just extremely positive and just a lover of life,” said Donohoo. “She was very passionate about what she did and what she thought and that is one thing I really did respect about her.”
Michelle paved the way for female singers in the group. The Barbershop Society had been in talks about allowing female members, but it wasn’t until 2019 that the Commodores allowed women in.
Michelle Hartman was the first to walk through the door. She wanted to sing with her son, who is also in the group.
“When she came in not all the men were ready for women to be in the chorus,” said Bob Patterson. “She stuck with it and just pulled forward and eventually it became acceptable, so I am proud of her for that.”
“We wouldn’t be doing as well as we are doing without them and specifically without Michelle who led the charge,” said Donohoo. “It adds more to the chorus. She added more to the chorus is the only way I can put it.”
Arlene Constant says Michelle helped create a bond among female members in the all-male group.
“I think her presence is going to be missed for a while,” said Arlene.
Her presence on the risers, though, isn’t the only thing members will miss. Many shared stories about Michelle’s passion for others.
“She always wanted to help people,” said Patterson.
Chorus members say she will continue to help people through the legacy she created.
“She loved her job and was really good at it and she was really passionate about it and I am going to miss that passion.”
The family has a fundraiser set up to help with medical expenses for Holly, along with funeral expenses and other costs as well.