Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Hazel Haley Dead at 91

It's a sad day in Lakeland, folks. The Ledger has reported that Hazel Haley, beloved English teacher to thousands of Lakeland High School students, died Monday.

This dynamo taught school for 69 years, a record that I can't imagine will ever be broken.

You can read all the specifics of her life and death at the linked Ledger article above, but I have a fond memory of Ms. Haley that I want to share.

I was a reporter at The Ledger and was assigned a reaction story on Barbara Walters' Monica Lewinsky interview- her first since the world had learned of her trysts with President Bill Clinton. I was asked to contact several people in the community. One of the editors suggested I call Hazel Haley.

I called her and asked if she would watch the interview that evening and I would call her afterward for comments. She told me no. I don't remember the direct quote, but it went something like this:

"There's a special on PBS tonight about castles in England, so I'll be watching that. I can always see Monica Lewinsky on TV, but it's not every day you get to see a show about English castles."

I burst into laughter. It was the best denial for an interview I've ever received.
Ms. Haley loved to travel, especially to England.

The last time I saw Ms. Haley was last year at a Lakeland High School football game. I didn't speak to her- I just admired her from a distance.

I'm not from Lakeland originally and didn't have Ms. Haley as a teacher, but her reputation reached far beyond the LHS walls. Although it was just once, I'm grateful for the chance to have spoken to such a legend.


Anonymous said...

To say I can't believe she is gone is an understatement. I worked with Ms.Haley at Lakeland Senior for 18 years. I was a secretary in the main office and when I retired I got bored after a year and decided to clean houses. Ms. Haley was one of my first and I have worked for her for the past 8 years. She was a joy to work for and became like a mother to me. We had such good times together and she never forgot to say "Thank You" for anything you did for her. I have a huge file of her clippings from over the years and I will look at them often and never forget a true "Lady"
Sharon Macon

Anonymous said...

when i woke up this morning and saw the fron page of the paper I couldnt believe it ...Miss haley was the one a few teachers at lakeland high when i was a student there from 1980-1982 that made me want to come to class and really learn something,I even wanted to learn about Beowulf and hamlet. She made learning fun and exciting. I will never forget the impact she made in my life.

Anonymous said...

I remember her from me going to Lakeland High School. didn't know her well. But we always smiled and said "hi". She just looked so sweet. Couldn't help but smile and say hi every time I saw her. Traci Byrne

Interstate4Jammer said...

Billy Thompson of the Tampa Tribune helped put the special section together when she retired and he was still at the Ledger. On his blog today Billy remembered one of his interviews with her during which she talked about going to watch the Royal Shakesphere Company performances when in London, and one in particular I thought you'd enjoy:

One time they did `Coriolanus,’ with Sir Ian McKellen. (Editor’s note: McKellen has played Gandalf in the `Lord of the Rings’ and Magneto in the `X-Men’ movies. But he was first a classically trained stage actor.) He came right down to the foots and opened his robe and was naked as a chicken.

Well, I do not want to see Ian McKellen naked as a chicken. That’s not my favorite. I guess they thought that sold tickets.”

Anonymous said...

Hazel Hunter Haley is the longest serving teacher in the history of Florida, perhaps in United States of America. She is one of a kind, there won't be another one like her. She was a little younger than Dick Proenneke, and she has been taught since Kemal Ataturk was the president of Turkey. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania was independent states at the time until 1940.

Anonymous said...

She was unique, I remember being her student on September 1985. We will missed her....