Friday, January 02, 2009

Shorty Hagerman Remembered Aboard USS Lexington (CV-16)

Shorty Hagerman was beloved not just by his friends here at AIMM (and across Arkansas), but also by his friends at USS Lexington (CV-16) in Corpus Christi, TX.

Shorty was an active volunteer and supporter of the Lexington Museum, even when he was unable to visit his beloved former ship as often as he wanted.

The Lexington folks conducted a Memorial service for Shorty in Lexington's hanger bay and the ship's volunteers put a wreath overboard. Shown are (L-R), Maggie Ramsey, USS Lexington volunteer coordinator, three Lexington volunteers, and Rocco Montesano, Executive Director of the Museum.

Rocco writes, "It could not have been a more beautiful day with calm winds, unusual for Corpus Christi. It will take a long time for the wreath to get to shore, which I'm sure would be fine by Shorty!"


Blogger Steve Nawojczyk said...

Here is a note I sent to the Commander of the Patriot Guard about Shorty:

For the several last years I was the liaison between the City of North Little Rock and the USS Razorback project. It was doing that job that I was given the honor of meeting "Shorty". During our first few meetings, Shorty exhibited the typical respect but wary attitude of a sailor toward anyone wearing a "white shirt with scrambled eggs on their hat" (Shorty's words later to me).

As the days wore on, it was obvious Shorty was merely tolerating me because he was told to do so by the Razorback museum commander, Greg Zonner. He was never rude, just basically, he ignored me and went about his mission being the "Master at Arms", a title he cherished by the way.

The days wore into weeks and months until one morning I was making my usual early morning visit to the submarine. I spied Shorty standing on the gangway and walked toward him. As I drew close, Shorty turned toward me, snapped to attention and gave me a crisp salute, followed by him saying-- "Good Morning my Hero." This was when I learned that he had only then discovered my past.

I had been the Pulaski County Coroner during the incredibly damaging "Gang Wars" of Little Rock in the early 90s when our homicide rate here was as great per capita as it was in NYC and Los Angeles. The gangs and killings brought worldwide attention to the community in the form of an HBO documentary called Gang War: Bangin' in Little Rock. It seems someone had filled Shorty in on that and had given him a copy of the documentary that showed one scene of me being in the immediate vicinity of a drive-by shooting.

From that moment on we developed a mutual relationship of great friendship and respect. Not once in a while, not occasionally-- but every time Shorty saw me approaching he would repeat the snappy salute and words, "good morning my hero". It got to where I returned the salute and told him, "No sir, you are MY hero." Since going to work for the State of Arkansas in March of this year, my exposure to Shorty has been cut back to once or twice a month. I sorely missed our exchanges.

At one of the VIP events on the submarine, Shorty and I were both sitting at a table at the entrance way to the gnngway leading to the barges. A woman approached us and asked Shorty if he was my father. He smiled his funny engaging smile at her and said, "No ma'am, he's my hero." She smiled and walked away probably a little confused. One of my most cherished possessions is a photo someone snapped of me and Shorty that day that I got Shorty to autograph for me. I look at it everyday and get excited when someone asks me who the guy in the photo with me is. I then get to tell them about my brush with the Greatest Generation.

As time wore on I got to spend a lot of time sitting with Shorty and talking about things current and past. Shorty and I once took a long ride on a golf cart along the banks of the Arkansas River and he told me of things he'd seen while serving aboard the USS Lexington. I was mesmerized. I was also greatly amused hearing his stories of his rodeoing and carnival and truck-driving days. Those of you who were privileged to know this Little Big Man have probably heard the same great stories. Guard them closely, cherish them forever. Anyone who knew him also knows he was one of a kind.

In addition to his Navy days, the other thing Shorty spoke of with great fondness was his involvement with the Patriot Guard. But, nothing could compare with his love for his dearly departed wife. Many times he moved me to tears with the tender way he spoke of their relationship. I was incredibly honored that he would open up to me in such a fashion.

I would like to thank his family and friends for sharing him with me. I learned a great deal from my friend. And to Shorty I say-- Go in peace pal. You're back with your sweet bride.

8:46 AM  

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