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Lake Fenton Schools Honor Russ Haddon

The late Russ Haddon helped the district expand from K-8 to K-12 and was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award Saturday.

, 97, passed away on Tuesday after an illness, but he had known since December that he would be this year's Lifetime Achievement Award winner.

Upon hearing about the award, Haddon asked what he'd done to deserve it.

"Way too many things," Lake Fenton Education Foundation President Tom Hufton replied.

When Haddon became superintendent of in 1948, it was a kindergarten through eighth grade district. Haddon later helped orchestrate a county-wide election, that allowed Lake Fenton to become a K-12 school district.

It was an easy decision for the foundation to select Haddon as this year's Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Hufton said. He knew Haddon for 18 years, since Hufton was his personal banker at Each day, Haddon would stop by the bank. But he didn't come to talk to Hufton.

"He came to see the ladies," Hufton said.

And Haddon always had a smile on his face, as he did in December when Hufton told him he'd won the award.

The day after Hufton presented Haddon with the award, Haddon's son, Lance Haddon, e-mailed Hufton to say that, very shortly afterward, Haddon had passed away. The family was glad that Haddon received the plaque before his death, and they thanked the foundation for honoring him. For Haddon, it truly was a labor of love, Lance Haddon said.

On Saturday evening, at Spring Meadows Country Club in Linden, Haddon's friend, caregiver and companion, Nancy Mason, accepted the award on Haddon's behalf. Afterward, Mason said one of the greatest things Haddon did was to get other people to achieve their own greatness.

"He had that way of inspiring people to think that they were the greatest, that they could do anything. And if they didn't, he would push them.

"I think that is one of his greatest talents," Mason said.

Without Haddon, Lake Fenton Community Schools might not have become a K-12 district, Lake Fenton Board of Education President Bob Grubbs said.

"He stuck to his guns and kept things going and made all the right moves. He knew how to talk to all of the people," he said.

Two members of the Karen Craner and Samantha Di Vita, also spoke in Haddon's honor. In theatre, "angel" means someone who backs a production.

"What do you call someone who backs an entire theater," Di Vita said. "Russ was our champion all of his life, and now he's our guardian angel. He provided our building."

Craner and Di Vita performed a short skit, about how the world would be a better place if there were more dirt roads like the one Haddon lived on. There would be less crime, drugs and corruption if there were less paved roads, they said. "Dirt roads taught patience, and they were environmentally friendly. You didn't hop in your car for a quart of milk. You went to your barn." And when the dirt roads weren't passable, people stayed home and had "good, old-fashioned family time."

Craner and Di Vita said they would remember Haddon for a lot of reasons, including he was a scholar, teacher, entrepreneur, friend, and "he lived on a dirt road."

John Sharpe, who was the emcee, said he knew Haddon for around 20 years, a short time in Haddon's world. Sharpe told a friend that he needed to buy some shrubs, so the friend said he should go to .

At the nursery, when Sharpe saw an old man coming out to meet him with a dog following, Sharpe related that he'd been told to talk to either Dave or "the old man."

"You must obviously be Dave," Sharpe said.

Haddon never forgot him after that. And he always liked Haddon, said Sharpe, who later became a school board member when Haddon was superintendent at Lake Fenton schools.

"He didn't live like a high roller. He was just a regular guy," Sharpe said.

Haddon's Life

Haddon was born Nov. 12, 1914 and graduated from in 1932. In addition, he was a World War II veteran in the U.S. Navy and received an undergraduate degree from Eastern Michigan University and a master's degree in education from the University of Michigan. Haddon was the loving father of sons, Harold and Lance, and devoted husband of his wife, Sibyl.

He taught at Fenton High School, was principal and superintendent at for more than 16 years, helped develop the junior and senior high school and community education for Lake Fenton schools, and was superintendent for Holly Area Schools for 12 years. He also began community education for Holly schools.

Haddon was the first director of the served on the former Fenton Village Council, was on the Holly Township Planning Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals. He owned since 1950 and was a founding member of the Fenton Village Players, in 1939. That same year, he directed "Hugo in a Hurry" for the

In addition, Haddon pledged $250,000 for a theater in memory of his wife, Sibyl. And he was a member of the vestry at and belonged to the Kiwanis Clubs of Fenton, Holly and Lake Fenton.

Robert Marr May 14, 2012 at 02:24 AM
A wonderful man, for sure. Thanks for the great story, Jason!

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