“Community fixture” is an understatement. Hank Hayden was a local legend.
The Ridgefield man died last week just shy of his 90th birthday, and his loss will be known to all.
“I don’t think there’s one person in town that did not know my father,” said Helen Krebser.
Hayden went out of his way to make that possible.
He was a live-in groundskeeper at Abrams Park. He was a crossing guard at View Ridge Middle School. He was the guy outside the Old Liberty Theater who would greet you on your way in to get coffee. He was early to local games and always sat in the same seat.
“He always had a big smile on his face — always a real positive individual,” said Ridgefield Mayor Ron Onslow. “He was a legend in his own time.”
Hayden has been called “Ridgefield’s grandpa,” though he did his part to shake off any old-man stereotypes.
If You Go
• What: Memorial service for Hank Hayden and potluck.
• Where: Ridgefield High School gym.
• When: Wednesday at 6 p.m.
• Cost: Donations for a proposed memorial will be accepted.
Eight years ago, Hayden decided to sport a mohawk and dye it different colors — orange and blue for big Spudders games.
“Everybody loved his mohawk,” Krebser said. “I think he was dared, and that’s how it all began.”
He was just a guy you couldn’t miss.
Hayden came to Ridgefield when he was 2 years old and never left. He was raised with four siblings by a widowed mother whose brothers all lived on the same road.
Hayden ran several gas stations in the area and eventually retired from work at the RSG Mill in Kalama when he was 62.
In retirement, he served his community in many ways, most visibly at Abrams Park as the groundskeeper for 15 years.
Mowing fields was just the start of it — Hayden brought the park and its users in line.
“He treated it like his yard,” his daughter said.
For his service, the city named a park after Hayden on Heron Ridge Drive — Hank Hayden Park.
“He was just a well-loved person,” Krebser said.
After he moved out of the house at the park, Hayden became a staple at the coffee shop at Old Liberty, engaging everyone as they passed.
“He was all about connecting with people,” Onslow said. “He was someone you like to look up to.”
On Oct. 19, Hayden had a heart attack, which took his life Oct. 24.
Krebser said the hospice care he received for two days was wonderful.
“They made him so comfortable and able to go in peace,” she said.
Though he didn’t make it to 90 as he had hoped, Hayden will still have a party on Nov. 4, his birthday.
Krebser is holding a memorial service at the Ridgefield High School gym, with the hopes it will hold everyone who knew Hayden. Which, from the sounds of it, was just about everyone.