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The Ripple Effect: Putting Ashley Hardmon to rest

Ashley Hardm19 was struck head with bullet  July 2 2013 while standing among friends outside home 4800 block West

Ashley Hardmon, 19, was struck in the head with a bullet on July 2, 2013, while standing among friends outside a home in the 4800 block of West Potomac around 9:40 p.m.. Hardmon was Chicago first female victim of gun violence in the month of July. | Jessica Koscielniak ~ Sun-Times

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Updated: August 18, 2013 6:11AM

Tiffany Hardmon trembled in the arms of her husband, Anthony, as they slowly walked down the center aisle of New Mount
Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church on the West Side.

At the front of the church, the open white-and-pink casket stood vertically, holding the body of their 19-year-old daughter, Ashley Hardmon.

It’s exactly what Tiffany Hardmon requested for her “princess.”

“My baby ain’t gonna be looked down on,” Tiffany Hardmon, 39, said earlier in the week while planning funeral arrangements with Reliable Funeral Services director Anthony Hardman.

Ashley Hardmon — affectionately known as “Muffin” — was shot in the back of the head while standing with friends in the 4800 block of West Potomac about 9:40 p.m. on July 2.

Ashley grew up in a home in the Austin neighborhood with two dedicated parents, who say they did everything they could to keep their kids safe and on a path to success. Ashley’s father was a former gang affiliate who chose to leave that lifestyle 10 years ago to be a stronger father figure for his family.

“I always taught my children to be better than me,” Anthony Hardmon, 42, said.

He ran a strict house with rules and curfews, he insisted. Education was important, a way out of the neighborhood, stressed Anthony, who says he was shot at years earlier on the opposite corner where Ashley was killed.

“My kids were always my priority,” Anthony said. “That’s just how I was raised.”

Ashley had just completed her pharmacy technician training at Paul Simon Job Corps. The Hardmons were preparing for a family reunion in Arkansas.

“The second he pulled that trigger, he rearranged my entire life,” Tiffany Hardmon said of the killer, who hasn’t been caught.

Under dreadful circumstances, the Hardmons’ extended family reunion came to Chicago for Ashley’s homegoing service.

After days of planning, the Hardmons decided to have their daughter dressed in her favorite color and attire — a new, red Adidas track suit with matching white-and-red-shell-toe Adidas Superstar shoes.

“I won’t put her in a dress,” Tiffany said earlier. “She was an athlete, her lifestyle was her own.”

Latoyah Smith — the best friend of Ashley’s sister, Latasia — styled her hair and gracefully stood watch as Ashley’s body was prepared.

On July 10, a crowd of more than 1,200 gathered to say farewell to Ashley.

As friends and family mourned, many took comfort in prayer and song — a celebration for Ashley’s 19 years. For her brother, though, the pain of losing his sister was evident.

Anthony Hardmon Jr., 14, walked to the pulpit and stood tall, demanding the respect of the entire church.

“That right there is my heart,” he said of his sister. “That’s my childhood. That’s my everything.

“We should be burying our grandmothers and fathers. I shouldn’t have to be carrying my sister to this hearse.”

Additional video by Peter Holderness.

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