WASHINGTON COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY (Washington County, Utah)
BIOGRAPHY OF CLARK JACOB HAFEN
by Richard & Marti Hafen
Clark Jacob Hafen was born on April 9, 1926 -- the third child of
"Coach" Lee and Elsie Frei Hafen.
He was a scholar among a family of athletes: his father a celebrated coach...his three brothers
basketball, football, and baseball players.
Upon graduation from Dixie High School in 1944,
Clark was accepted into the United States Naval officers Training Program at the University of Texas in Austin.
WWII ended during his education in Texas, and he transferred to the University of Utah
where he obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree and High school Teachers Certificate in 1948.
This was followed by post-graduate work at Brigham Young University,
the University of California at Berkley, and the University of Utah.
His career as a high school teacher of English and Journalism took him to Moapa Valley, Nevada; Cedar City, Utah; and ultimately back to his beloved "Dixie" for the next 20 years. He lived in the family home at 20 East 100 South in St. George where he cared for his then widowed mother Elsie until her passing in 1966. He was an extraordinary teacher with a gift for using any means available to encourage original thought -- all of which occasionally raised some eyebrows. During his tenure as editor of the Dixie High School student paper, "The Flyer Flash", the periodical was mentioned at least five times as the outstanding high school paper in Utah by then Salt Lake Tribune colomnist Dan Valentine. Clark enjoyed all of his students and they adored him. Even after his retirement, they would drop by his home -- knowing that he would most likely be sitting at the dining room table plucking out a newspaper column or some other literary work on his typewriter (a mason size jar of Diet Coke within easy reach, and a bottomless bowl of M&Ms on the coffee table in the living room). The life long impact Clark had on those he mentored and taught is best reflected in the attached letters to the editor by Michelle Thomas and Craig Booth, M.D.
In the early 1970s and until his passing in 1989, he joined his dear friend and fellow teacher, Mary Phoenix, in the column writing business for the "Washington County News" (and subsequently "The Spectrum"). Titled the "Dixie Diary", it was a folksy column that became an institution in the community. Wherever they went, they were pulled aside to be told interesting tid-bits of what was happening in and around -- with the hope that it would make it into the next edition of the "Dixie Diary". With his love for the arts and theatre, Clark also found himself an active participant in productions of the local Red Hills Readers group.
In the early 1950s, Clark wrote a manuscript for a book entitled "Tempest in a Teacup". Posthumously, his brother Richard and his sister Maxine had it published in 2008. It is the story of one man's journey from the hey-days of his youth to his acceptance of adulthood -- the setting a town called Dixon -- Clark's synonym for "Dixie". It is a loosely crafted autobiography.
On June 24, 1989, the community was stunned to learn of the untimely passing of this iconic man. At age 63, he died in his sleep in the home that he loved so much. To a packed house, his life was celebrated at a funeral service in the St. George Tabernacle; appropriately, one of the musical selections was Barbara Streisand's "People". Brent Goodey, Managing Editor of the Daily Spectrum at the time, summed it all up in his opinion column: "Dixie is a poorer place today since Clark Hafen is no longer with us. Some say Clark marched to a different drum. That was what made him so loved and so endearing. The world has plenty of clones but is diminished by the loss of each truly unique and independent spirit....."
REFERENCESClark Jacob Hafen's funeral program
Clark Jacob Hafen's obituary in the Daily Spectrum
Letter to the Daily Spectrum editor about Clark Jacob Hafen by Michelle Thomas, 1970 graduate of Dixie High
To see how it appeared in newspaper, click here