Harold Haugstad, 63, perhaps better known to you as one of the following: Hal, Halbert, Mr. Hal or Halvis, left his nicknames behind on Tuesday, April 27, 2021. He was born on June 18, 1957 to Philip and Esther (Laffe) Haugstad in Black River Falls, WI. He graduated from BRF Sr. High School with the class of 1975 and joined his father in his logging business. It was a 16-year career that he loved. Helping his dad in running, building and fixing the many pieces of equipment needed to be in the wood daily gave him the ability to fix almost anything mechanical and took after his father with his ability to fix or invent a solution for almost anything. On September 30, 1978 he married his high school sweetheart, Gayle M. Smith, and they were together for 47 years. Together they became a family with the addition of a daughter and three sons. Hal was very proud to be a dad to such fun loving and totally different people. Hal soon became one of the most beloved t-ball coaches in town. Often stopping his practices to appreciate the clover, dandelions and various insects and frogs the kids found while learning the fine art of playing the positions of the outfield. His coaching style was easy going and fun and helped the kids learn the very basics of the sport. Such as the ability to always run in the right direction after hitting the ball and ending every session with him in the lead running a lap around and calling out the names of each base as it was passed. Hal also enjoyed many years of bowling and with a natural talent, acquired a large amount of various size trophies that he “allowed” Gayle to dust weekly. She was very honored. He also did some bartending at the Pines. A natural fit for a friendly guy. He was a member of the Masonic Lodge and soon after joining, became “Dad” to the last group of Job’s Daughters. Escorting the group to various out of town activities, he logged many miles with giggling girls in the minivan. It was a memory he cherished. In 1991 Hal went to work for the Black River Falls school district. This position ended up being more than just a job. It was perfect for a guy who had mechanical knowledge, the gift of gab and a compassion for children. He worked in each of the schools and all the different positions through the years and was a favorite of everyone whether it was staff or children. He also had a unique sense of humor and a personality that put everyone at ease. Becoming a trusted influence of the children he was quickly dubbed “Mr. Hal”. His last position was at the Forrest St. School where he was honored yearly to have a school day designated “Mr. Hal Day” and the children were allowed to dress like him, wearing jeans, a flannel shirt with a T-shirt under. A little boy once told him this was his favorite day of the year. One day Gayle went to the school and she opened the door for a couple of boys, who immediately became wary of someone they had never seen before. She told them it was ok that she was there to see Mr. Hal because she was his wife. They stood planted in place and stared at her. Then one remarked to the other “Mr. Hal has a wife?” It was common knowledge that he just lived in the school because he was always there. If one spotted him at a store or anywhere that wasn’t school, he always received a big hug after being asked various versions of “what are you doing here?” Hal was instrumental in getting playground equipment funded and installed and Gayle wrote the grant application. He was honored by being the first person to go down the slide when it was complete. He started a program at school called “Hals Helpers.” He wanted to teach each child how important it was to take care of and take pride in their school. They washed windows, wiped down ledges and tables. One favorite job to help Mr. Hal was getting the black marks off the floor from tennis shoes and boots. For this immensely “cool” job they used another of his inventions that involved long broom handles that Hal had attached a tennis ball to one end. He had his long one and made one just the right size for his helper. Together they scrubbed the black marks and they disappeared like magic! When he was in the hospital the children all made him get well cards and about 95% of them featured a drawing of two people with sticks and tennis balls. He still had all of them! He loved his school family and especially the staff of Forest St. School. Of course, the women outnumbered the male staff and Hal once remarked as he left after lunch, “now back to my 39 other wives”! He very much regretted having to retire and “give up.”
Hunting with family and friends was an activity that he loved. All of the month of November he drove Gayle crazy with “buck fever” planning phone calls. There are many stories shared over the years that are too numerous to share but ask one of his sons for details.
Hal and Gayle loved camping and had started hiking together. Camping as a family was their greatest joy. They had great fun riding in the boat, playing ball, collecting frogs and making S’mores and sandcastles and hammocks.
Fishing was a friendly competition between Hal and Gayle. First fish of the season, first fish of the day etc. Gayle usually out fished Hal. His reply was always he was too busy positioning the boat for Gayle.
In 2009 Hal was diagnosed with AML (leukemia) and underwent treatment and went into remission. The leukemia returned after a year chemo was restarted until a donor could be found. None could be found in the US, so the search went international. A donor was found in England and began the medication that would soon be flown here. His stem cell transplant was September 2 2011, and after 32 days of tough and painful days in the UW-Madison hospital he came home. A year later we were allowed to have contact with his donor. A very special woman named Sadie became part of our family. Hal was able to have a phone conversation with Sadie and was able to say thank you.
To Sadie, I would like to say thank you again. Thank you for giving us 10 more years with Hal.
He saw 3 more grandchildren born and see their personalities emerge. And they got to know “Bumpa” too. And even now in this sad time our gratefulness to this wonderful woman will never end
Hal was preceded in death by his parents and grandparents. Surviving him are his sisters, Judy Tulgren of Eau Claire and Nancy Brown of BRF. He is also survived by his wife, Gayle; daughter, Dana (Michael) Rave, granddaughters Abigayle and Annaliese of BRF; son, Nathan (Sarah), grandsons Clayton and Elijah in Knoxville, TN; son, Neil (Kylia), granddaughter Isabella; and son, Philip of Menomonie.
Gayle and family would like to say thank you to all their family, friends, relatives and the entire Black River Falls community for the support they received over the last eleven years. The outpouring of love and concern always astonished and humbled them.
Chippewa Valley Cremation Services – Celebration of Life Center in Altoona is assisting the family. To leave an online condolence, please visit http://www.chippewavalleycremation.com