Former Watsonville High teacher Norman Haney dies
Modified: Wednesday, Jan 18th, 2017
BY: TODD GUILD
WATSONVILLE — Years ago, former Watsonville High School teacher Norm Haney was on his way to a gathering in Tres Pinos when he was stopped by police for a minor traffic violation, and given a written warning.
Haney, who served as the school’s driving instructor, recognized the irony in receiving the ticket. He showed the warning to his friends, and then ripped it up and threw the pieces in the trash, thinking that was the end of it.
Unbeknownst to Haney, his friend and former student Mas Hashimoto fished the pieces out and taped them back together. Hashimoto later presented it to Haney during his retirement ceremony in 1989, which capped a 39-year teaching career.
The joke gift was the perfect way to honor Haney, who above all else was known for his sense of humor.
Haney, who in addition to teaching driver’s training, coached golf and football and taught biology, died Tuesday in a San Jose hospital after a brief battle with brain cancer. He was 89.
“The thing I remember most about him was his humor,” said Watsonville City Councilwoman and Watsonville/Aptos/Santa Cruz Adult Education Director Nancy Bilicich. “To be in his classroom was fun.”
Hashimoto, who was a sophomore in Haney’s first class, called him “the most beloved and respected teacher ever at Watsonville High School.”
Haney began teaching biology, but after state law made driver’s training a requirement, he began teaching that.
Because he got a new crop of students every nine weeks, Haney taught nearly every WHS student during his career, Hashimoto said.
When Haney started at the school he looked so young he was sometimes confused with students, his daughter Marilyn Elliott said.
Dozens of people shared their memories of Haney in the Remembering Watsonville Facebook page.
Haney was born in 1927 in Coalinga, then a small oil town.
He graduated from Coalinga High School in 1944, just after his 17th birthday.
In a Register-Pajaronian interview in 2014, Haney described himself as an average academic student who excelled in athletics.
The U.S. was embroiled in World War II, but because he was underage he attended Fresno State College for one semester before he was required to join the military. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy on his 18th birthday and served on a landing ship for two years in China.
He returned to Coalinga in 1947 and returned to Fresno State as a sophomore on the GI Bill.
It was only then he met his wife Loy. Despite the fact that she was his friend’s sister and played in the school band with him, he never noticed her.
But their relationship blossomed into a marriage that lasted nearly seven decades, Elliott said.
“They are still very much in love,” Elliott said. “They still hold hands, and pretty much did everything together.”
Haney played basketball one year for Fresno State, and was on the track team for two years.
He received his teaching credential for biology and coaching in 1950, and applied for a teaching position at Watsonville High School. He was hired in September of that year and stayed for nearly four decades, teaching biology and driver’s education and coaching golf, basketball and football.
During his tenure Haney was named teacher of the year in 1983 and 1989. Additionally, he was twice named coach of the year in lightweight basketball and as coach of the year for the girls’ basketball team.
In his retirement, Haney worked with senior golfers.
Haney stayed active well into retirement, and was a member of Spring Hills Golf Course. He also ran a weekly senior tournament at Pajaro Valley Golf Club.
Elliott recalled a recent doubles tennis match she played against Haney, in which he excelled despite the age difference.
“He beat the socks off us,” she said.
Haney was named Friend of the Wildcatz for the 2014 Watsonville High School Hall of Fame.
In an interview for that story, Haney described WHS students as the “finest students and the nicest young people you could possibly find to work with.”
“I loved teaching them and tried to do it with a sense of humor,” he said. “I had more fun teaching these young people than you can imagine.”
Haney was known for giving Tootsie Rolls to students who excelled in class, which earned him the nickname Tootsie Roll King.
When a student wrote to Chicago-based Tootsie Roll Industries about Haney’s habit, the company sent him a case of the ubiquitous candy.
Elliott also remembered her father’s sense of humor, but also praised his easygoing nature.
“He was a people person and a storyteller, and he made friends wherever he went,” she said. “He always had a smile on his face and a story to tell.”