Music group remembers Norfolk couple killed in Hawaii

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – We learn more about the Norfolk couple killed during a visit to Hawaii.

Michelle and Ronald Hartman were on a trip to support their daughter, Holly, when they died in a head-on car crash. Holly was the only survivor but still has a long way to go.

Friends of the couple say Michelle and Ronald were so excited about the trip to support their daughter who was competing in a Spartan race. They say that was all Michelle could talk about for weeks because she was so excited to visit.

The couple have 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 bands she sings with, “The Commodores.”

“We were expecting to have him here tonight in the risers,” Arlene Constant said.

She sang tenor and was the first female member of the all-male group. Although the practice started off on a low note, his presence was felt.

“I had no words,” said Commodore Chorus manager Tyler Donohoo. “I was in shock, I still am if I’m being 100% 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 overwhelmingly positive and just a lover of life,” Donohoo said. “She was very passionate about what she did and what she thought and that’s something I really respected about her.”

Michelle paved the way for the singers in the group. The Barbershop Society was in talks to allow female members, but it wasn’t until 2019 that the Commodores allowed women in.

Michelle Hartman was the first through the door. She wanted to sing with her son, who is also part of the group.

“When she arrived, not all the men were ready for women to be in the choir,” Bob Patterson said. “She hung on and just moved on and eventually it became acceptable, so I’m proud of her for that.”

“We wouldn’t do as well as we do without them and more specifically without Michelle leading the charge,” Donohoo said. “It adds more to the chorus. She adding more to the chorus is the only way I can tell.

Arlene Constant says Michelle helped bond the female members of the all-male group.

“I think his presence will be missed for a while,” Arlene said.

His presence on the risers, however, isn’t the only thing the members will miss. Lots of stories shared about Michelle’s passion for others.

“She always wanted to help people,” Patterson said.

Chorus members say she will continue to help people through the legacy she has created.

“She loved her job and was really good at it and she was really passionate about it and I’m going to miss that passion.”

The family has a Fundraising set up to help cover Holly’s medical bills, as well as funeral and other costs.

William N. Fernandez