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David Reynolds: Fred L. Hadsel

Column by David Reynolds
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On a Sunday this community lost, no, strike “community.” This nation lost one of its countless pillars. His name was Fred. Fred Latimer Hadsel if you wish to be formal. But Fred was never formal. He was simply a pillar of strength, a strength of character.

I thought I knew all about Fred until I read his obituary. That is why Fred Hadsel, in spite of his distinguished career even before he came to Lexington, was perfectly suited for this place. He talked like any good transplanted Southern. He never talked about himself. His generation was not of “Me.” Fred was the opposite of me. Fred was the Quiet Man.

You have to ask yourself where did we get such men as Fred Hadsel, well liked, well educated, well versed in music and the arts and well suited to serve his country. I’m not sure. All I hope for is that this nation’s luck has not run out.

Fred Hadsel was born in Ohio. Maybe that explains it. In spite of today’s mass communication, America is still a nation of several very different regions. The flat heartland of America is still there. So are the mountains. And so is the Northeast and the South. Stir them together and I guess it is natural that you come up with a Fred Hadsel.

Being a combat historian during World War II may be another explanation. This assignment in Europe surely molded Fred Hadsel as much as his journeys across America. It required reflection on the grim reality of war. Maybe foreign service could be an alternative. Maybe he could help to invent peace. Fred tried both.

Fred was always reflecting. It was his inner pleasure. The pleasure of writing the first draft of history is not a job one takes lightly.

But that still does not fully explain Fred Hadsel. Maybe time does. There was a time, Fred’s generation, when certain things were expected of you. It was your job description at birth. You spoke well, you had good manners, and you believed in service above self. And in exchange you enjoyed life’s countless little pleasures. Not a bad deal.

You also believed that there was someone more important than you. This fact alone allowed you to accept both life and death on their proper terms. Fred knew that death was an impostor. So he put as much living into his body as he could. Age, even the number 94, was not an acceptable excuse to shut down the mind, even when the body would not respond.

When you spoke to Fred Hadsel you always had the feeling that he knew what you were going to say before you said it. That trait doesn’t just grow out of all the formal education jammed into Fred’s head. It comes from respect. Fred respected everyone who crossed his path. It would be easy to say that his was an elite path. But that would be wrong. In Fred’s mind we are all on the same path. That is why it was so easy to talk to Fred Hadsel, whether he was listening to country music at the Palmer Ice Cream Supper or in town at the Lenfest Center for the Performing Arts.

Exactly a year ago there was another tribute. It, too, had a one word title. You had a feeling that not too long after “Winifred” there would be “Fred.” Sixty-six years is not a long time for a satisfying marriage. However, being apart for a single year could feel like an eternity. Now there is eternity. For both. Together. Life works out. Even in death.