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.