BLAST FROM THE PAST: Harmon Killebrew, Judy Haberman each leave lasting impressionsHERON LAKE — In the past two weeks, two really nice people have died — both after battling cancer.
By: Les Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
HERON LAKE — In the past two weeks, two really nice people have died — both after battling cancer.
Famous Minnesota Twins’ slugger Harmon Killebrew, who was the signature Twin during the decade of the 1960s when I was growing up, passed away at age 74 on May 17.
One day earlier, Heron Lake’s Judy Haberman — the ever-smiling, congenial, widowed mother of six fine children — died at her home with her family at her side.
Widowed in 1980 at age 40, Judy did an absolutely remarkable job of raising her family — and serving the community.
As a student at Heron Lake Public School, I knew of Harmon Killebrew — he was the Twins’ home run hitter and his birthday was on June 29, the same as mine.
I watched Harmon belt lots of long home runs on television broadcasts with Ray Scott and Halsey Hall making the call.
But I never knew what a genuine nice guy Killebrew was.
A lot has been said and written about the Twins’ legend since.
Coming from a small town in Idaho, Killebrew was an outstanding all-around athlete — also excelling in football and basketball — before signing a huge $30,000 bonus with the Washington Senators in 1954.
When the Senators moved to Minnesota in 1961, the “Killer” cut his travel distance to his home state down considerably and remained the cornerstone of the upper Midwest’s “franchise” team for 15 years, including the memorable American League pennant-winning year of 1965 and back-to-back Western Division titles in ’69 and ’70.
Killebrew hit 40 or more home runs in eight seasons, displaying remarkable consistency and durability.
He was indeed a Twins’ legend.
While Harmon was signing his contract with the Senators, Judy Hady was an active high school student at Heron Lake High School.
She was a cheerleader for some mighty fine Falcon teams before receiving her HLHS diploma in May of 1958.
Several times when have I needed information about HLHS football or basketball teams, I contacted Judy — my neighbor — and found out what I was looking for. She was a cheerful help.
While I knew of Harmon when I was a Heron Lake student, I actually knew Judy.
She was the school secretary, working for superintendent Hal Haugejorde, and later for Bill Stearns.
As elementary kids, we sometimes got to walk “upstairs” to the high school and we all knew who Judy was. She was always kind, considerate and helpful to us “grade-school kids.”
Then, when we became seventh-graders, we saw her more often.
I remember that it was Judy that told us there was a program in the gym balcony on that unforgettable cloudy Friday afternoon of Nov. 22, 1963 when he heard the news from Dallas, Texas about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
After my ninth-grade year, in the summer of 1966, we moved to a different farm and I went to Windom High School my last three years.
Being lucky enough to get a teaching job back in Heron Lake nine years later, Judy was no longer the secretary.
She was living and working on the farm with her husband, Bill Haberman, and starting a family.
Five years later, “Billy” died of kidney complications, leaving Judy alone with six young children — Rick, Teresa, John, Linda, Doug and Jerry.
The twins — Rick and Teresa — were 10, and the youngest, Jerry, was five.
Moving into town, Judy soon became Heron Lake’s city clerk and held that important position for 27 years, retiring in 2008.
She never remarried, but raised those kids on her own and continued to work for her community.
Being involved with the summer recreation program, I frequently chatted with Judy at city hall about equipment needs, program numbers and writing up a final report about the summer’s events.
My kids all became very involved in Heron Lake’s summer recreation program, and Lucas — who has been in charge for the past eight summers — also worked closely with Judy.
Working as the Summer Recreation Director for many years was Judy’s son, Rick, who coached my oldest four and taught them how to appreciate baseball.
Rick taught and coached for many years in Fulda and was the head volleyball coach at Southwest Star Concept during several successful seasons, before moving on to a full-time teaching and coaching position at Tracy-Milroy-Balaton. He is currently the head boys’ basketball coach for the Panthers.
Our family spent some time with the Haberman’s and we had several connecting links, such as Lin doing a lot of babysitting for both Lucas and Chelsey when they were little. Lance and Chad spent their share of time playing “ball” at the “hamshack” and we frequently heard the sound of a basketball late at night (ask, Carol Olson Garmer) as Rick was practicing his skills.
That practice paid off, years later when Rick drained the winning shot — from the corner — in a December of 1986 Christmas tournament game at Storden.
As the Haberman kids have grown and moved off with jobs of their own, we didn’t get together as much as we used.
They were all together in October of 2007 for Doug and Wendy’s wedding — and then, of course, in the last few months, they were all together frequently at Judy’s house, providing hospice care.
I visited with Judy on April 18 and she seemed very well. The Haberman’s were watching the Twins on TV and Judy was hopeful for a victory.
She chuckled at lots of old stories and seemed to be doing very well.
I had wanted to write about Judy while she was still living, and I thought I had time.
But, three weeks later, she took a turn for the worse and on Monday, May 16, Judy Haberman passed away at age 71.
She was a great lady, a wonderful mother and grandmother, and a tremendous community person.
It could be said that Judy Haberman was Heron Lake through and through.
She had served the school as a secretary and the community as the city clerk, while devoting herself to her family.
I missed the chance to write something about Judy when I wrote about fan involvement at high school sporting events.
I sure should have included Judy.
She was always positive and looked at the bright side of things.
“I grew up kind of sheltered,” Rick told me when we visited on the day before Judy died. “She always liked all the coaches, so I never knew that some people didn’t like some of them.”
That sounds like Judy — the same wonderful woman, who was our school secretary back when I was just a “grade-schooler” at Heron Lake Public.
It was amazing the tremendous show of support which Rick received from his fellow teachers and coaches at Tracy, who came down to Heron Lake for Judy’s funeral.
The same could be said for visitation day about the staff at SSC and at Fulda.
A “chip off the block,” Rick is obviously having a positive effect on people the way his mother did.
Ditto, for twin sister Teresa — an elementary teacher in Delano — who smiles so much like her mom.
The same is true for John, Lin, Doug and Jerry. They have all “grown up” to become outstanding citizens, who work hard and do what’s right.
Judy can rest proud of how all six turned out.
We miss you, Judy, but we are so lucky to have known you.
Alex Meyer, Sean Haberman will be missed at SSC
Last night, two fine all-around athletes Alex Meyer and Sean Haberman (not a close relative to Judy’s family) received SSC diplomas.
Those two will be greatly missed by Quasar — and Wildcat — athletics, because they were both cornerstones of three programs.
Hard-working all-around athletes, Alex and Sean played football, basketball and baseball to the best of their ability, always striving to do what was best for the team.
As an observer to both Southwestern United (SSC and Round Lake-Brewster) football and baseball, and as a first-year boys’ basketball (SSC, which is Heron Lake-Okabena) assistant coach, I was able to witness a lot of the senior leadership that these two guys provided.
It was truly outstanding.
While not winning a football game over the past two seasons, these two guys continued to play through injuries and do what they could to help the team compete.
I was inspired by that, and then I saw — first hand —what they both did to help the Quasar varsity basketball compete favorably night after night, I was even more impressed.
Meyer and Haberman both had a pair of great all-around games, helping SSC win the Candy Cane Classic holiday tournament at Westbrook in December, each earning all-tournament honors.
Now, they are playing key roles on a successful SWU baseball team which enters tournament play against Tracy-Milroy-Balaton at Springfield this afternoon.
Best of luck, Alex and Sean, your commitment to staying involved as three-sport athletes has been a positive factor and a big reason that small-school athletics is something we should hang on to.