Friday, July 4, 2014

Harold Victor Hayward - aka Harold Foss and "Mr. Peanut"

1913 - 1993

(Family Lineage: Harold Victor Hayward  1, Judith Ann, Susan Faye and Linda Jean Hayward  2)


8 Month old Harold
In 1915, his mother named him Harold Victor Foss before she gave him up to a Lutheran children's home in St. Paul, Minnesota (times were very different then, with few good choices). But from 1916 until his death in 1993 at age 78, he was Harold Victor Hayward, with his adoptive parents changing only his surname.

1915 – 1993

Those dates represent the beginning and the end of his story on earth. But they don't even begin to describe his "dash" or how he became a legend in his own right.

Some months after his birth in the Salvation Army Maternity Hospital, he was transported from the Kinderfreund Society in Minnesota to a children's home in Iowa, where he was put up for adoption. It was there that Edwin Herbert Hayward and his wife, Dorothea Wierck Hayward, of Fairbank, Iowa saw Harold for the first time. It's not known when they were able to take him into their home, but records do show that 18 month old Harold officially became Harold Victor Hayward when the adoption was finalized in 1916.

He was 19 years old before the closely held secret of his adoption was finally emotionally revealed to him by his father. His mom, who seemed to have convinced herself that she had given birth to him, was not thrilled that the “secret” had finally been told to the only person in Fairbank, Iowa who didn't know about it. However, once it officially came out, so did several other “facts”:
  • that his birth mother had placed him in a basket on a church doorstep during a Minnesota snow storm with a note tucked into his blanket saying “His name is Harold Victor Foss. Please take good care of him”. (Of course this is the stuff of which legends are made, but documentation found after his death proved that this tale was untrue.  He did eventually share that story with his children but there's no way of knowing whether-or-not he believed it);
  • that Herb and Dora were looking for a blond, blue-eyed baby girl when they arrived at the children's home (If that is true, it is obvious that their plan went awry when they saw what his father later described as a screaming, scrawny little boy who obviously needed parents and plenty of loving - at least he did have blond hair and blue eyes!)
Dora and Harold
The Haywards were tenant farmers in Iowa during Harold's childhood.   But soon after he graduated from high school, he decided that there was a different life awaiting him. And judging by his experiences after he arrived in the big city, it seems he was right - Chicago was waiting for him!

This farm boy with a strong personality and generosity of spirit made a difference in many lives and will be remembered for his contributions and actions through the years, such as when he:

  • Hopped a freight train to Chicago with very little money in his pocket and few plans except that he was welcome to stay with relatives until he found work. What he didn’t count on was that he would be joined in the boxcar by a young couple running away from their families who had no money, no prospects, and were expecting a baby soon.  By the end of the ride, his pockets were empty because he had given whatever money he had to the couple.  After the train pulled into the train yard, Harold hitched a ride to the North side of Chicago where his aunt and uncle lived.

  • Met Edna Franklin, a beautiful young teacher from Indiana, on a blind date.  Shortly after their wedding on the Franklin farm in Versailles, Indiana on May 23, 1936, they packed their gifts and Edna's brother, Paul, into their car and headed to Chicago, where Harold had rented a small apartment. Since Paul had no place to live, the young couple laid a board over two chairs in the kitchen for his bed. Their honeymoon sure didn't last very long!!
  • With World War II in its infancy, Harold was appointed Community Commander in the “Citizens Defense Corps Reserves”.  Since his job was considered vital to the war effort, he was excused from active duty, and it wasn't long before this father of two little girls was supervising a victory garden, organizing air raid drills and prayer services, keeping the neighborhood active in support of the troops, and selling war bonds. 
  • As President of the North Shore Kiwanis Club, Harold sold its members on the idea of taking fund raising to a new level in order to give very needed support to underprivileged kids in the city. The idea? -  selling peanuts on the streets of Chicago. 
Harold Hayward in 1970
The few of us still around who were involved in this ambitious project still remember that first Peanut Day in September of 1951 and what it took to make it successful. Weeks before the big day, a truck had dumped what seemed to be tons of  peanuts in the Hayward's garage. Those who had been unfortunate enough to be recruited by Harold, that super salesman, spent endless hours bagging peanuts in the hot garage. Of course they were assured that their efforts were not only a duty, but a privilege.  It didn't always feel that way!  Needless to say, one lesson learned was that from that time on, peanuts were bagged by the supplier before the big event.
Finally, with bags of peanuts in their hands, volunteers of all ages hit the streets with donation cans and peanuts. It soon became obvious that people liked receiving peanuts instead of poppies or just a "thank you" for their donations. And they usually threw in some extra money to show their pleasure.
The campaign was highly successful, so much so that by 1970, $3.4 million had been raised and Kiwanis clubs throughout the country had adopted the project as well. Oh yes, and Harold became known as "Mr. Peanut".
  •  The Haywards always welcomed into their home youth who needed advice, a sympathetic shoulder or  a good laugh.  The door was always open and tissues handy.  Harold was much more than a “Luther League Leader” to those whose lives he touched. Even years later, those children who had grown into adults talked about what he had meant to them and the example he had set for how to be a good parent and person.
Harold taking over typing duties
  • After opening an insurance office in their local neighborhood, Harold continued to hone his skills in selling life insurance - while Edna became his staff of one and learned how to type from an instruction book while working in the house. He was always proud of the career he had chosen.  Even without a college degree or certifications such as CLU or ChFC, he was highly successful and managed several successful general agencies for some of the largest insurance companies in the country over the years.  

Life itself eventually slowed him down.  In 1948, while working in an electronics store, he slipped on some stairs while lugging a television set down to the basement (yes, there were TVs then - but they were bulky and heavy). That resulted in a fractured back. Seven years later, in 1955, as he was changing out storm windows for screens, the ladder slipped and he fell to the sidewalk, resulting in a crushed elbow and cracked hip. By using chips of bone scraped off the sidewalk by the EMTs, the elbow was pieced together "with glue and wire",  but the hip bothered him for the rest of his life. The timing was awful!  By that time there were three children in the family, his widowed mother was living in the basement apartment and he had just been appointed General Agent of a large insurance agency in downtown Chicago. So he spent his first weeks in the new job supervising the agency from a hospital bed in the family dining room.
Harold and Edna Hayward - 1990
Yes, Harold's dash through life was a constant challenge, but he loved the journey!

After 57 years with the woman he always called "my beautiful wife", it came to an end in Venice Florida in 1993. His vibrant personality, successes, deep faith and idiosyncrasies  helped to make  him what he was – a legend that lives on even now through stories told by those who knew and loved him!