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Dick Haslam: Remembering the life of a legend


Dick Haslam’s life didn’t go beyond description, but it surely goes beyond easy description.

It was a live so well-lived, that three generations have taken moments to reflect on the passing of Haslam last week.

And each generation has a different take on that extraordinary life.

Haslam, 81 years young, passed away last week after suffering a heart attack.

Literally two weeks after winning a golf outing.

Which was no big deal for the guy with 17 holes in one after retiring to a life of golf.

Which also included a near-career of substitute teaching at Crawfordsville High School after a teaching and coaching career. He has been universally called “the best sub ever” by every former student talked to in recent days.

There was that teaching and coaching career, which included a stint at CHS, his alma mater.

That followed a literal Hall of Fame four years as a student athlete at Butler University, where Haslam was named to not just one, but two of the Bulldogs Halls of Honor for sports accomplishments.

And all that followed the thing that got him major attention the first time — winning the Trester Award as a senior for the Athenians basketball team that went to the state finals.

Oh yes, there are also more Halls of Fame.

The 1958 CHS basketball team made it to the state finals, losing to Ft. Wayne South, but the floor general of the 24-6 team was a smart, scrappy guard named Dick Haslam.

The senior, one of four on that team, averaged seven points and eight assists for the squad, but his leadership earned him the Arthur L. Trester Award, unquestionably the highest basketball honor in the state in that era.

Haslam remains the only player in Montgomery County history to win that award.

He went on to play on the Indiana All-Star team that summer, and they defeated Kentucky twice in the border battle.

The next step was to head to Butler, and there was more — lots more.

His basketball career landed him in the Bulldog Hall of Fame. He played for the legendary Tony Hinkle, who later called Haslam “the smartest player I ever coached.”

He started 66 straight games, and was captain of the 1961-62 team that recorded the first 20-win season in school history, and helped lead the Bulldogs to their first NCAA tournament appearance. That appearance also included a first-round win, before losing to Kentucky.

He won three letters, was two-time all-conference and a member of three conference championship teams. He was also awarded the Hilton U. Brown Mental Attitude Award by Butler after his senior season.

All that basketball prowess was accompanied by a Hall of Fame golf career at Butler.

A member, but not a scoring player, on the Athenians state championship golf team in 1956, Haslam took his clubs to Indy and became the Bulldogs medalist in the spring of ‘61. It was just the next chapter in his life-long love of golf, which included helping form the first girls golf team at CHS.

The new Butler grad went into coaching and started at Brownsburg. He spent one year with that Bulldogs program before pulling up stakes and moving back home to start a seven-year stint with the Athenians.

Amassing a 52-44 record at CHS, Haslam’s teams won a Sagamore Conference title in 1968, and four sectional championships. He won in his first season (1964) and added crowns in ‘65, ‘68 and ‘69.

A move to Maconaquah followed, where he coached for three seasons before moving into the Athletic Director’s role until his retirement in 1996.

That retirement saw a move back to Montgomery County, and a home on the Rocky Ridge Golf Course, where Haslam may have played more golf than any person in that course’s history.

And that retirement was Hall of Fame worthy, as he continued to give.

“I had only heard about the 1958 Trester Award winner Dick Haslam until the winter of 1997,” said Pete Utterback, a native of South Bend who was a teacher at Tuttle. “A horrible snow storm was swirling in central Indiana and many of the Tuttle Middle School teachers who lived out of town could not make it into school that morning. A man I had never seen before was in the front hallway, ready to chip in and help the staff and students who had decided to brave the weather. I found out later that man was Mr. Dick Haslam.”

It was the first of a multitude of moments between the two teachers.

“That moment symbolized what Dick Haslam meant to the TMS and later the CMS staff, students, and me personally,” Utterback said. “After Dick retired from Maconaquah, he moved back to Crawfordsville and became a frequent substitute teacher. He substituted for me a number of times in my 8th grade English classroom over the years. Having Mr. Haslam as my substitute gave me a sense of peace that the activities I had left for my students would get done and my students would behave. I know my colleagues felt the same way. Students respected and liked Mr. Haslam; he cared about them and the kids could tell, even the ones he had to discipline. One year in the early 2000s, Dick was at TMS the first day of second semester on the teacher workday in January. The teachers were wondering, What is Dick doing here today? The students aren’t even back yet. Our assistant principal had left over Christmas Break, and Dick wound up being our assistant principal for a few months. I know I speak for my former TMS and CMS colleagues when I say that we are thankful Dick Haslam chose to move back to Crawfordsville and become a part of our lives. It is not an exaggeration to say that Dick Haslam was a beloved teacher for the many years he served these 3 schools.”

The duo also talked hoops.

“Of course, Dick and I had a common interest: basketball (not golf),” Utterback continued. “Dick coached against two of the greatest players the state of Indiana has produced: Rick Mount in the 1960s and Kyle Macy of Peru in the 1970s. And I enjoyed hearing stories about some of those games between CHS and Lebanon as well as the ones between Maconaquah and Peru. He introduced me once to Bobby Plump of Milan fame. He and Plump were both Butler graduates. And he shared some memories of playing for Coach Tony Hinkle at Butler.”

Crawfordsville Athletic Director Bryce Barton also had some Haslam-history.

“We were honoring the 1958 team,” Barton said, “and we were playing Lebanon that night. As it happened, Rick Mount was in the crowd, as he was watching his grandson play. After we finished introducing the ‘58 team, he (Mount) came out of the crowd and made his way across the gym to talk to Dick. There are very, very few people in the world that Rick Mount would come out of a crowd to talk to, and one of them was Dick Haslam. He coached against Mount both at Brownsburg (Mount’s freshman year) and at Crawfordsville. The fact that he played for Tony Hinkle, who called Dick the smartest player he had ever coached, and coached against Rick Mount makes for a pretty special person.”

Barton also added some thoughts on behalf of the entire Crawfordsville school community.

“Dick Haslam was an ambassador for Crawfordsville High School Athletics and really Montgomery County basketball,” he said. “When you talk about the rich history of basketball in our county, Dick Haslam is one of the first names to come to mind. What I will remember the most about Dick is his willingness to share his knowledge of all the great teams and players before, during, and after his time at Crawfordsville. He was a true student of the game. When Dick would visit the school to speak to our teams, the players and coaches were so appreciative of his time and stories.

The fact that he continued substitute teaching in our schools into his late 70’s shows how much he cared for his school and the youth of our community. He was a great man.”

Oh yes, those other Halls of Fame.

Haslam was voted into the Crawfordsville Athletics Hall of Fame, as well as the Montgomery County Basketball Hall of Fame.

In 1983, he was named to the Silver Anniversary team of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame and then in 2012, was granted membership into that prestigious Hall.

He played basketball, coached basketball. Was a teacher and administrator, and a substitute teacher.

All for a while — he never stopped golfing.

A member at Rocky Ridge, and living on the course, it was pretty easy to get a few rounds played.

Okay, hundreds. Okay, thousands of rounds played.

“He would leave his house at 8 in the morning sometimes and play until after dark,” noted friend and regular golf parter Vance Pyle. “Dick was my hero as a kid growing up. I didn’t miss a game that 1957-58 season, and it was truly an honor to become his friend and golf partner. He and I played five days a week. We both had our own carts, and it was nothing to get 36 holes played after 6:30 when there was no one on the course but us. We would hit and go - hit and go. We did that for years. It was a wonderful relationship and friendship. We even took some golf vacations with our wives. He was one of my best lifetime friends and a great person.”

Noting the 17 holes in one that Haslam had to his credit, there was nearly a moment when the two friends had a double.

“We were on No.16 at Rocky Ridge,” Pyle said. “Dick hit line drives, and he hammered one toward the pin. We both lost sight of it. I hit my shot, and knew it was okay, but we lost sight of it as well (due to evening shadows). We drove up to the green, and Dick’s shot was an inch to the left and mine was an inch to the right of going in. If we had both gotten holes on one on the same hole, no one would ever have believed us.”

A golfer to the end, Haslam finished a winner, as he and his son, Jim, tied for first in a ”crazy pin scramble” at the Crawfordsville Municipal, two weeks before his passing.

A winner across three generations — as an athlete, a coach, a teacher, a golfing partner and friend — Dick Haslam earned acclaim all his life, and promptly gave back so much.

“Dick Haslam became so much more to me than the 1958 Trester Award winner from Crawfordsville High School,” Utterback said. “He was a faithful friend, wonderful substitute teacher, and trusted mentor. I will miss him.”

Everyone will miss him.

No one will ever, ever forget him.

A memorial service is being planned by the family for either late July or early August, hopefully at the old Crawfordsville High School gymnasium. Details will be announced.

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