NORFOLK — The eighth-grade hallway at Norwood-Norfolk Central School was filled with family and friends of Jon D. Hazen on Sept. 21 as district officials unveiled a plaque in his honor.
They came to honor and remember a man who, with the exception of four years at SUNY Potsdam, had spent his career at Norwood-Norfolk as a student, teacher, coach and school board member and president until his passing on Nov. 20, 2018.
“If you ask me, it’s pretty astonishing to consider his involvement in the school district in some capacity from age 5 to 72 — 67 years. Jon had a special place in his heart for Norwood-Norfolk,” said Don Clark, one of Mr. Hazen’s son-in-laws who spoke on behalf of Mr. Hazen’s family.
He recounted the world events that had taken place during Mr. Hazen’s career, from the 1969 moon landing and John Lennon’s death in 1980, to the 1986 space shuttle Challenger disaster and the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
“As a history teacher, there was a lot of history that was made while Jon walked the halls of this institution,” Mr. Clark said.
He said Mr. Hazen was known for his “calm demeanor, dry humor and sage advice,” as well as a willingness to help whenever it was needed, whether it was mentoring a student or taking home a student who had missed a bus. He said Mr. Hazen’s work day never ended at 3:30, his relationship with his students didn’t end in June and his career didn’t end with his retirement in 2002.
“As a coach, Jon taught lessons in character and sense of team before he ever worried about the win,” Mr. Clark said. “He was respected by colleagues and students as a firm and fair teacher, adviser and coach. He had a very calm delivery and you could understand the seriousness of the point he was making. But he never had to raise his voice to deliver a message.”
Timothy Opdyke, who taught ninth-grade social studies at the time Mr. Hazen was teaching the subject in eighth grade, also praised his former colleague for all he did in the school and community. He recalled how Mr. Hazen was in his second week of teaching and came to him lamenting the fact that the students weren’t as enthusiastic about social studies as the teachers.
“He said he was going to do something about that. What he did for the rest of his life as a teacher was constantly go to workshops, read stuff and try to improve. I think it’s something kids ultimately realized and expected,” Mr. Opdyke said.
He noted the number of students who had passed through Mr. Hazen’s class on their way to eighth grade during his years of teaching.
“In that time, never once did I hear a kid say anything bad about Jon. He was dedicated more than you know. He was respected by all who passed through here,” he said. “He was described by one of the people here as a gentleman’s gentleman. I think that covers Jon to a T. I think we’ve seen a dedicated teacher. I think we’ve seen a helping and caring person. I think we’ve seen a pretty important person.”
Among the other speakers was Thomas Burns, district superintendent for the St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services, who also served as a teacher and administrator at Norwood-Norfolk.
“Jon was so many things to so many people. He liked kids so much and he had so much fun with them. He had fun talking with them and joking, usually teasing them and they would tease him right back,” he said.
Mr. Burns said Mr. Hazen not only knew the students who had passed through his class, “he knew their parents, he knew their grandparents, he knew their aunts and uncles, he knew where they lived.”
He said Mr. Hazen usually led the prayer at functions.
“I think he really liked to do it. When Jon became ill and when he passed, it kept occurring to me, who’s going to say the prayer,” said Mr. Burns, who took on that role on Saturday.
The plaque unveiled by Superintendent James Cruikshank and middle school Principal William Lint at what’s now known as the Jon D. Hazen Memorial Hallway recounted Mr. Hazen’s importance to the district.
“He was quite the man and this is but a small thing the school district can do,” Mr. Cruikshank said.
The plaque described Mr. Hazen as a dedicated teacher, coach and official who had made an impact on thousands of young people “and will forever remain in their hearts. Whether in the classroom, on the field or on the rink, Jon Hazen was a role model for the children. Student, coach, teacher, mentor, board member, president, Jon Hazen, lifelong Flyer.”