Dr. Beaumont R. Hagebak of Waleska, died of natural causes on Friday, November 2, 2018. He was 82 years of age. He wrote this obituary, so members of his family are blameless. (About this, at least.)
Born in Starbuck, Minnesota to Norwegian-American parents, he was a product of small-town America. He spent most of his formative years in Blue Earth, Minnesota, where he graduated from high school in 1954. He still considers Blue Earth to be his home town. After two years with the U.S. Army, serving in the post-World War II Occupation Forces in Garmisch, Germany where he learned to stand at attention while not totally sober, he returned home to enroll at the University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, Iowa. There he earned his Bachelor's degree in education, and Master's degree in school counseling. While still in college he met and married Lillian Kate Price of Grinnell, Iowa. The couple had three sons before dissolving their marriage in 1976.
Dr. Hagebak began his career as a high school guidance counselor in Reinbeck, Iowa in 1961. After two years of learning how very little he really knew about helping teenagers, he enrolled in the doctoral counseling psychology program at Arizona State University, Tempe and earned his doctorate there in 1967. In 1964, while working on his doctoral dissertation, he relocated his family to his home state of Minnesota, where he became an Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of the Psychological Services Center at Mankato State University. The Center prospered under his leadership, and that success led to his appointment as Dean of Students at Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin in 1969. Those were difficult times in the academic world, and Dr. Hagebak was formally introduced to the student body by the then-President of the Student Government as a "racist, fascist pig". Three years later, before leaving the frozen north for Georgia, Dr. Hagebak served as best man in the wedding of the next President of that same Student Government. He saw that as progress.
In 1971, when he finally realized that Georgia was warmer than northern Wisconsin, Dr. Hagebak moved his family to LaGrange to become the first community mental health center director in a thirteen-county health district just south of Atlanta. After he drew in a couple of million Federal dollars for that cause, he was promoted to manage all public health, mental health, welfare and vocational rehabilitation services in the same area. That proved to be such a pleasant chore that he was promoted again, and took on 54 counties in western Georgia, directing all of their Department of Human Resources services. A 'chief' rather than an "Indian", Dr. Hagebak's job was eliminated in a purge of administrators ordered by then-Governor George Busbee. Then his father died, the divorce happened, and he started dating again. (Funny business, that.) Eventually, he met and married Judith Eve (Mertz) Hula, of Marietta, Georgia, and merged the two families. Judy had a son by a previous marriage. It was a great marriage but ended in a mutually agreed-upon divorce in 2017.
Dr. Hagebak then served as an Atlanta-based human services consultant for a year or so, before joining the U.S. Public Health Service, Atlanta Regional Office, as a Mental Health Program Consultant for NIMH in eight southern states. Eventually Ronald Reagan, then-President of the United States, shut down all of the Regional Offices of NIMH in the mistaken belief that mental diseases had been cured nationwide. Dr. Hagebak was permitted to stay on when all of his colleagues were fired, because he was a military veteran. Guilt-ridden, he wrote a couple of books during this period, since there was little else to do. Eventually, though, he moved up in the system and became the Deputy Regional Health Administrator for Region IV - Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. His most shining hour was when Hurricane Andrew hit Miami, and he was in charge of the federal public health response. It was quite exciting to watch the parade of Republican big shots marching through the disaster area. Not a pretty sight. Sort of like cleaning up after the circus goes through your hometown. "Grab the shovels, men, here comes another one!" Some of the finest people he ever knew were U.S. Public Health Services personnel!
He retired from the Federal government in 1999, moved to a log cabin in the north Georgia mountains, and did a little consulting on emergency preparedness until the Bush administration set up the Department of Homeland Security and made a royal mess of things. Then he took up watercolor painting and began teaching psychology at North Georgia College and State University in Dahlonega. Some years later he and his wife moved to Roswell, Georgia, and he began to teach human growth and development in the Psychology Department at Kennesaw State University. He used his own personnel experiences in his teaching since he had lived, at the time, all of the stages of human growth except death and dying. He and his wife traveled a bit,too, visiting Norway, Sweden, Denmark, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Greece, Japan, China, England, and Scotland using the money he earned from teaching. He didn't really earn much from watercoloring, but it kept him out of the bars and off the streets in his old age. So, did his efforts to document the genealogy of his Hagebak and Mork families, which led to three books about them, and a smaller book about his mother, "Go-Go Gertie" (Gertrude Hagebak).
In 2011 Dr. Hagebak (then age 75) and his wife moved to Roseville, California to watch their two-year-old granddaughter grow up and to see and do new and interesting things in a totally different part of the country. it was hard leaving family and friends behind in Georgia, but exciting to deal with such a major change so late in life. He loved living in California, and with his wife toured the western coastal area, created a backyard nature preserve, served on the steering committee of the community wine tasting club, and met wonderful new friends (most, but not all, Democrats). Together, he and Judy traveled to Europe several times. They particularly loved river cruises. In 2016, as they were nearing their 40th wedding anniversary, he and Judy decided, for a variety of reasons to divorce. Their divorce was final in 2017, and he moved back East to be closer to his own family. It was a tough time for both of them. Eventually, at age 80, he settled in an old log cabin in the Lake Arrowhead Community near Waleska, Georgia, in the foothills of the North Georgia mountains.
Dr. Hagebak was a proud member of the American Humanist Society, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Wilderness Society and several other environmental organizations, the Democratic National Committee, and other progressive groups. He thoroughly enjoyed being well left of center, religiously and politically, and loved to yell at Republicans and evangelical Christians appearing on television. He also yelled at people who drove too slowly in the left lane. Often, they were the same people.
Dr. Hagebak, or "Ace" as he was called throughout his lifetime because of an unfortunate incident in eighth grade involving a huge paper airplane in study hall, is survived by his sons Beaumont William, Christen Daane, Haakon Price; their delightful spouses, five beautiful and bright granddaughters, and a fine set of great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents, Dr. C. Beaumont H. Hagebak and Gertrude E. (Mork) Hagebak, and by his kid sister, Corinne A. (Hagebak) Grussing.
Memorial contributions may be made to any activist environmental organization that seeks to preserve endangered wildlife, the shrinking wildreness areas in the United States, or to expand urban green space at the expense of urban and suburban developers. As an alternative, people can also donate memorial funds to Vesterheim, the Norwegian-American folk museum in Decorah, Iowa; or to the Lac qui Parle County Historical Museum in Madison, Minnesota where artifacts that once belonged to members of Dr. Hagebak's pioneer family are displayed. (Look up the addresses on the internet, OK?)