Memorial Service for Charles T. Hazelrigg
It is an honor for me to come here today and celebrate the life of Charles Tabb Hazelrigg. It was truly a "wonderful life." The newspaper described him as being like Clark Gable but I always thought of Charlie as James Stewart but with the grace of Fred Astaire. It doesn't matter, any comparison to a movie star would have been okay with Charlie!
I first met Charlie in the winter of 1963. I had transferred from the University of Kentucky to Centre in the middle of my junior year. I had chiseled out a mediocre C+ average and I needed a miracle to get into medical school. I found that miracle at Centre where a group of great teachers turned my life around and put me here before you today.
This may sound like a commercial for Centre College but Charlie would have said, "So be it!" For three semesters I was taught by such legendary professors as Paul Cantrell, West T. Hill, Fred Loetscher and Gordon Windsor. And then there was Dr. Charles Hazelrigg.
Now, I HAD to take English Literature! I did not WANT to take English Literature . . . I dreaded it. I was a football player, just slightly beyond the Hardy Boys books and, in 1963, deep into the current rage, Marvel Comics! Obviously, I had a long way to go.
Soon, I was caught up in the world of great writers and poets who came to life through this great teacher. I believed every word he said. He once told us that Lord Byron only slept three hours a night . . . sleep was a waste of time! . . . and that he, Charles Hazelrigg, had trained himself to do the same. I thought this might be a requirement of the course, tried it and almost died!
Charlie gave off sparks! Unpredictable, engaging, giving to a fault, challenging, caring and concerned . . . quick with a smile, quicker with a laugh . . . a twinkle always in his eye.
But it wasn't just the material that you learned from him . . . it was the overall attitude toward learning in general that left you excited . . . simply watching his approach to life made you realize that life was for LIVING . . . no going through the motions for Charlie . . . open your heart and your mind to all that the world has to over . . . and then keep it up for 90 years!
Much has been said about Charlie Hazelrigg the dancer . . . he WAS good . . . very good. Every man, especially those of us with two left feet, admire a man who can dance. Charlie once told me that as a young Centre student, he and other young men would frequently load up into a car and to Lexington to dance. This was no little feat. This was in the 1930's, the road was long and curvy. What made this trek even more remarkable was that just before cramming into the car (which had a rumble seat by the way), each man would remove his trousers, fold them neatly, store them in a secure corner of the car . . . so they would have a sharp crease once they hit the dance floor! STYLE! Another word that defines Charlie.
After Centre saved my academic bacon, I went off to medical school, a residency, the Navy and then returned to Danville in 1974. Our family now had two young daughters . . . we needed a church and joined First Christian Church, and it has been our church home ever since.
As a young family man, you look to those in church older than you for spiritual guidance. The examples set by those elders establish the pattern for those that come after . . . if you're are smart, you pick one of these giants and set your course to follow in their footsteps . . . Charlie was my giant.
He attended church. This does not sound very important but the steadfastness makes a lasting impression over time. He rarely missed! When tragedy struck . . . he came. When his health failed . . . he came. He served the church . . . and elder, a teacher for over 40 years . . . He loved the church . . . it was family . . . and each Sunday after the service was over he held court in the middle aisle, men pressing in to shake his hand, women bending to hug him and children flocking to his side. He was a true Christian.
One last thought . . . about 2 months ago I had occasion to perform a swallowing test on Charlie. When I entered the room, the three young female technicians were already under his spell . . . one of them turned to me and asked, "Did you know Mr. Hazelrigg was a famous Centre professor?" Now, there was only one source for that piece of information in that room! I replied that I did indeed know that and I had once been his student. And then I asked them, "Did you know that he was also a great dancer?" They were all impressed and Charlie beamed . . . and then he said, "I was a great dancer because I had a great partner!" And he did. Margie and Charlie shared a great love for 62 years! They have a beautiful family. Warm and precious memories . . . Charlie will be missed by ALL of us . . . but we give thanks to God that for 90 years we shared this space with . . . Charles Tabb Hazelrigg.
-Elmer Jackson, '64
For a tribute to Dr. Hazelrigg by his English colleague Milton Reigelman, please click here.
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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, visit http://www.centre.edu/web/elevatorspeech/
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