Coming home: after a decade in NYC, she’s back in Bellingham

by Tara Gilligan Reimer


There’s the name: Wilhelmina. Distinctly European.

There’s the childhood: born and raised in Bellingham.

There’s the career: modeling 10 years in New York City.

Short story

The short story is: she’s come home to us.

Wilhelmina Hardisty lived the NYC bestseller life in her twenties, and she’s launching her early thirties in her hometown of Bellingham. Having earned a bachelor’s degree at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and still modeling, she loves the feeling of home and helping others find theirs. She interviewed at almost all the brokerages in our emergent Pacific Northwest market and chose “the house that Lori built,” known as RE/MAX Whatcom County. (Chief Executive Officer Lori Reece founded RE/MAX, her “tiny start-up with a big dream,” in 1991.)

Long story

But the long story is much more interesting, especially with Wilhelmina narrating in charming detail, about where she’s been and where she’s going.

With the first chapter of her life story starting in Bellingham, she fondly ticks off her pre-college alma matres: Happy Valley elementary, Fairhaven middle school, and Sehome. Importantly, in childhood, Wilhelmina spent summers living in her ancestral homeland of Holland and traveling Europe. She got used to putting herself in new places.

So, after high school graduation, she went to the farthest point east, short of an Atlantic crossing: “When I first stepped into Manhattan, I knew this was home.

Wilhelmina wrapped herself—in gorgeous garms—in that New York energy. She began modeling for Ford Models, the company that ignited the 1980s model-turned-superstar phenomenon. She moved onto a second modeling house, incredibly finding an agency that matched her extraordinary name, Wilhelmina Models. During her time in New York, she worked for major clients, such as Gap, Ralph Lauren, Chloe, Express, Uniqlo, J Brand Jeans, among others.

Model by day, student by night

While Wilhelmina wrapped herself in fabric for her day job, she immersed herself in books at night school. “Model by day, student by night—it was hard,” she declares. “But I was determined because education is very important to me.” From the acclaimed FIT, which specializes in business and design, she earned a bachelor’s degree in advertising and marketing along with a minor in economics. Here’s what Wilhelmina learned during this journey: “New York is competitive and tough. If you want to stay, you must work hard.” So, that’s exactly what she did.

Coming home

Then, the pandemic swept in. Wilhelmina and her film director boyfriend (from California but who she met in NYC) started to crave the west coast lives they had before: trails, lakes, mountains, the Pacific Ocean. They answered their cravings in a month-long road trip, filling up with camping, surfing, backgammon, river showers, all along the winding road of Route 1.

While New York called to her a decade ago, Bellingham—her home—was calling her back. “I’m a West Coast girl,” she effuses. “Returning to Bellingham was never part of my plan. But since being home, I didn’t realize how much my soul craved this community. And I haven’t looked back.”

Finding a new professional home

For her next chapter, she did a “very intense” two-week stakeout of Bellingham brokerages, interviewing just about everyone in town. “It was meeting Lori, hearing her story and how she started RE/MAX that inspired me,” reveals Wilhelmina.

“Lori is a compelling presence. She’s built strong female leadership. Her philosophy is that education is the most important foundation in growing successful agents,” Wilhelmina explains. “Lori was able to reiterate the very goals I had set for myself. I was looking for extremely specific traits in a mentor, and she checks every box.” Wilhelmina feels like she’s found her new professional home.

First impression to authentic connection

As a business professional practiced at honing in on what’s important, Wilhelmina knows how to authentically connect—an important quality for a broker. She’s instantly warm and responsive, curious about how to embrace the place and people she left ten years ago.

She’s here at RE/MAX to star in her next chapter. She’ll tell you her whole story. And she’ll want to hear yours, too.

About us. Thirty years ago, a local girl (Sehome High School, Washington State University, and Western Washington University grad) launched a small start-up with a big dream. Little did RE/MAX Whatcom County founder and CEO Lori Reece know that her company would become not only the most successful brokerage but also respected nationally and across industries. Her team, 90+ sought-after professionals, leads by serving thousands of clients and building market share. Learn, collaborate, be kind. When you’re doing all that—together—you know you’re in RE/MAX Whatcom County, the house that Lori built.

Tara Gilligan Reimer loves to find the story in place and people. This is my ninth feature on RE/MAX, the best brokerage in Whatcom County and the agents who lead, with brilliance and passion.