Charles O. Hadley
January 24, 1928 – January 7, 2021
“At least y’oughta live, so’s if there isn’t anything it’ll be an awful shame.”
Charles Hadley loved to tell the story (and a master storyteller he always was) of one of his favorite friends (the whimsical wonderful poet Roberta Chalmers) telling the story of one of her favorite friends (the even more famous poet Robert Frost) climbing the basement stairs with her one midnight weary. She had been tackling laundry, he had been mutely assisting her, and then out of the clear blue and a heretofore prolonged silence, he turned to her and pronounced that straightforward credo. No preamble, just that succinct if/then sentence. A simple aspirational connection between this world and the next. Unvarnished but deep. Vernacular form conveying eternal content.
Charles would always smile and sigh and nod at the humble phrasing and ageless wisdom of Frost’s observation and the modesty of the story’s setting given the world-class characters it featured. And that was SO Charles: appreciative of beauty and value and integrity wherever he found it, and his wide curiosity, energy and range of talents and sensitivities led him on a long lifetime of adventures and discoveries, many of which he shared with a broad variety of audiences.
Born on January 24, 1928, in the small mountain town of Elkin, NC, for which he always maintained an affection, Charles Owen Hadley was the second child and only son of C. O. Hadley and his lively wife Maude Parks Snow (one of the three fetching Snow sisters.) Ninety-two years later (actually only two weeks or so short of his 93rd birthday), Dr. Charles O. Hadley, Charles A. Dana Professor of English Literature and Language and Professor Emeritus of Queens University of Charlotte, died on January 7, 2021, in Charlotte, NC.
When the Great Depression hit, the Hadleys moved down the road to the larger town of Statesville, where the family stayed put thereafter. Following his Phi Beta Kappa graduation from Davidson College in 1949, Charles began a glorious year as one of the first Fulbright Scholars (1949-50) to head overseas, specifically to France and England, continuing his studies in comparative literature and linguistics as well as French and Italian literature. But his education extended beyond the classroom as he traveled extensively throughout the U.K. and the Continent. Western Europe, still recovering from the devastation of WWII, provided an endlessly exciting and complicated array of challenges and perspectives with which this young American could interact, as Fulbright recipients were expected to do. His first-hand experiences and friendships with his own generation’s post-war students from various European countries, their mutual interests in the problems and culture of one another’s homelands and those of the USA (such as politics, economics, race relations, music, film, art), the touchy dynamics between German and French students, the simmering tension in Franco’s Spain, etc. – all were dramatic game-changing and life-enlightening revelations for him.
Returning to this country, he attended Duke University for graduate work in English literature, transferring later to UNC-Chapel Hill, where he studied comparative literature and theatre, performing various roles in theatrical productions of the Carolina Playmakers and down in Manteo at THE LOST COLONY as he worked alongside actors Andy Griffith and Bob Armstrong. He received his Master’s Degree from UNC-CH in 1952 and later returned to grad school to earn his Ph.D. from the University of Georgia in 1973.
He barely had started his career at Queens College in 1955, when the draft board called him up, and off he trekked to serve in the U.S. Army from 1956-58, after which he returned to civilian life and began his long association with Queens College (now Queens University of Charlotte) in earnest. Dr. Hadley served Queens with distinction from 1955 until his retirement in 2006, during which time he received numerous awards from a variety of educational, civic and governmental foundations: The Queens Teaching Award; later its current and highest iteration – The Hunter-Hamilton Teaching Award; The J.B. Fuqua Distinguished Educator Award; The Lilly Scholar Award; National Endowment of the Humanities Grant (Dante Institute, Stanford University); English Speaking Union Grant (Shakespeare studies in Stratford, England); the J. W. Grier Outstanding Service Award. In 1987 he was designated an honorary alumnus of Queens, and in 1999 he was named North Carolina Professor of the Year by CASE and The Carnegie Foundation.
One of Dr. Hadley’s outstanding contributions to Queens was his creation of a spacious office/classroom that became a popular gathering place for students, alumni and colleagues, all of whom enjoyed dropping by for everything from an informal chit-chat to weightier discussions of favorite topics, including the inestimable value of the fine arts and a liberal arts education; a new play on Broadway; the abiding power of the classics; the exciting innovations of modern authors; the beauty of a particular poem of Emily Dickinson or a sonnet of Shakespeare. Among the many points of interest in his office was his exchange of letters with playwright Thornton Wilder, whose personal support of Dr. Hadley’s first dramatic production of OUR TOWN at Queens in 1955, resulted in a correspondence between the two. Dr. Hadley’s lair on the second floor of McEwen was a library, classroom, department lounge, museum, gallery and community center all in one. In appreciation of his gifts as an educator, raconteur, advisor, and counselor, upon his retirement, the university transferred a broad sampling of its contents to the campus library, where the Charles O. Hadley Reading Room continues to serve as a popular retreat for students, alumni and visitors.
Another of his passions was English history. He was often heard to say that English kings and queens were like close friends whom he loved – warts and all. Fluent in French, adept in many languages and accents, enthralled by literature and history, he particularly enjoyed virtually everything English or French – in this country or on-site abroad. He was especially fond of eccentrics, like the Mitford family, whose last surviving member Deborah, The Duchess of Devonshire, he and some of the alumni group which the Hadleys led on foreign trips met at her stunning home of Chatsworth.
Alumni especially appreciated his anecdotes of favorite Queens icons, such as the remarkably quirky Anglophile librarian, Rena Harrell; the memorably unique Professor Sara Nooe; the elegant taskmaster Dean Thelma Albright; and, of course, everyone’s favorite, Miss Betty. In addition, Dr. Hadley related interesting stories about many notable visitors to the College, perhaps the most enigmatic of all being poet e.e. cummings, who he had the ticklish task of hosting for a VERY complicated day. Hadley’s tales about that encounter were legend.
Yet another of Dr. Hadley’s greatest passions was music, and all kinds of it: classical, jazz, show tunes, hymns, pop. As a pianist, organist and tenor soloist, he served various musical organizations and church choirs for many years in Charlotte. He was especially fond of singing and playing piano informally with his wife, children and grandchildren, all of whom are avid musicians themselves.
Dr. Hadley’s expertise in the dialects of the American South led to a related career alongside that of teaching. While completing his Fulbright year in England, he was hired as a consultant by Sir Laurence Olivier, who was directing the London cast of A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, featuring actors Vivien Leigh and Theodore Bikel. While serving in that capacity, not only did Hadley coach Ms. Leigh as she refreshed the southern accent required for her character, but he was also in close enough proximity to meet some of her illustrious backstage fans and visitors, including Sir Winston Churchill.
Years later and back in this country, Dr. Hadley resumed his work as a dialect coach with a number of well-known actors including Charlton Heston, Robert Duvall, Faye Dunaway, Diane Keaton, John Travolta, Mary-Louise Parker, Laura Dern and Scarlett Johansson. Nick Nolte presented Dr. Hadley with a challenging task when he asked for his help in making him sound like Thomas Jefferson in the Merchant/Ivory film, JEFFERSON IN PARIS. Whatever attempt was made could only be hypothetical, there being no 18th century recordings available for study. Spectacle, yes; accuracy, who knows.
His work as a dialectician for television and movies led to many requests to lecture on his experience and to interviews for numerous newspaper and magazine articles about this side of his career. THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION found his work significant enough to merit a lengthy front page article. Over the years he also appeared on assorted radio and television programs, one of his favorite engagements an NPR interview by Scott Simon for “All Things Considered.”
In 1970 Dr. Hadley met his wife Jane at the University of Georgia, where they were both pursuing graduate degrees in The Department of Drama and Theatre. Two years later they married, and, sharing a love of theatre, art, music, literature, and travel, they worked side by side at Queens for decades, leading tours of their students and alumni over much of western Europe as well as to New York City on an annual basis. The Hadleys directed and taught individually and collectively through their 48+ year marriage. In addition to their work at Queens, they co-directed plays for other theatre programs including Central Piedmont Community College, many of its Summer Theatre seasons, and The Governor’s School in Charleston, S.C. They themselves also performed in various venues across the city, region, nation, and globe, and in 1999 co-produced the NEA-funded and frequently aired PBS documentary, RAY AND ROSA HICKS: THE LAST OF THE OLD-TIME STORYTELLERS.
In 2004 both Hadleys were honored with the construction of the Jane and Charles Hadley Theater on Queens campus. Thanks to the generosity of many friends, alumni and students, a gala benefit drew a large crowd to attend a Broadway-star studded trio (including son Jonathan), which raised part of the necessary funds to allow the theater’s construction to begin. Since its completion, the theater has been a popular site for both campus and community-wide theatrical and academic events and is currently the home performance space of Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte.
Upon the approach of Dr. Hadley’s retirement, his colleague, friend and former student Adelaide Davis asked what he would like the college to do. Jokingly, he requested a seated dinner for 200. To his astonishment, Mrs. Davis and a number of hard-working heart-warming friends did just that: the plates were heaped, the goblets filled, the candles twinkled, the crowds assembled, and Charles was duly wined, dined, toasted and roasted – all sumptuously.
“At least y’oughta live, so’s if there isn’t anything, it’ll be an awful shame.”
Charles Hadley lived and continues to live on in that manner. A profoundly good and loving man, who empathized with others’ pain and pleasure with extraordinary intuition and ministered to them with a blend of kindness, attention, humor, and practicality which left the afflicted feeling less so. He was the very definition of charm, eloquence, wit and magnetism, but beyond and underlying all that undeniable style there was a real substance and deep humanity. A lifelong searcher for wisdom and meaning on this and any other plain, he was authentically (if not formulaically) spiritual, and no doubt lived a noble and contributive life qualifying him to graduate to that next “anything” which Frost suggests.
Surviving Dr. Hadley is his (he said “adored”; she said “adoring”) wife Jane; two artistic and academic progeny: Amy Hadley Link (Bob) of Clinton, SC and Jonathan Hadley of NYC; two granddaughters Rachel Kelly Wade (John) of Lawrence, KS, and Mary Katherine Kelly of Clinton, SC; as well as a wealth of nephews and nieces, descendants of his late and beloved sister Ruth and her husband Dr. Tom Reeve: Susan Ingle (Dick), Robin Allen (Rick), Tee Reeve (Dana), Tim Reeve (Wendy) and their children and children’s children; Jane’s Holder brothers: Don and John (Vicki); nephews Doug (Stacey) and Mark (Kris) and their daughters; and a legion of Queens pals and colleagues, book club ladies galore, scores of Queens travelling companions, hundreds of students of many, many generations, and amazing, amusing friends of all ages, stages, places, races, creeds, and breeds in Charlotte and around the world. His hailing of fellows was truly well met and reciprocated.
The family is thankful for the generosity and many thoughtful kindnesses of their dear friends and neighbors and long distance family always, but particularly during these difficult times, especially the Crosthwaites, Goodes, Pleasants, Thompsons, Reeds, Terrells, Cayers, Griggs, Keith Pension, Adelaide Davis, Jo Claire Dulin, Betsy Scherer, Sally Wheeler and so many more in the Queens community, and for the invaluable triumvirate of physicians in our own family (Doctors Tee Reeve, Doug and Stacey Holder) whose medical knowledge, counsel, constant accessibility and love have been of irreplaceable comfort and assistance.
In the world’s most lovingly but strictly Jane-enforced quarantine since March 13, Charles never contracted Covid, but even before the pandemic he often said he didn’t want a funeral. And he certainly wouldn’t want anyone to congregate unsafely now, but. . . when the plague passes and folks can come together in person, a gathering will be held to celebrate his life and honor his memory. Anyone wanting to be notified when and where that future event will be held may send an email to email@example.com
In lieu of flowers, memorials or donations may be made to The Hadley International Fund at Queens University of Charlotte, 1900 Selwyn Avenue, Charlotte, NC 28274; Crisis Assistance of Charlotte, 500-A Spratt Street, Charlotte, NC 28206; or a charity of choice.
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
Charles O. Hadley
January 18, 2021
I adored Charles and his divine wife Jane. No one could dish better or make you laugh more. One of the highlights of my college career was the musical revue that we put on in 1975. The Hadleys made Queens a richer and warmer experience for me. I am so glad that my husband Richard got to know them and enjoy them too. I will always and forever be Charles' "baby girl."
January 16, 2021
As a Queens Graduate (2003), Dr. Hadley's name was noticable in the paper this morning. And as I recall I wasn't ever in any of his classes. What a far reaching impact to have when your name alone stops someone right in their tracks. Sending my deepest condolences.
January 14, 2021
How saddened I am to learn of Charles's death. He was such a talent in teaching, such a valued friend, such a wonderful mentor to so many ages and professions. The time I shared alongside him during my years at Queens was truly a highlight of my time there. He was a gem in every way, such an optimistic presence, so much fun. I am so glad I touched shoulders with him.
I send you and all his family my deepest sympathy in this loss of Charles in your daily lives. I know of no one who will be missed in so many ways. Love to all of you.
January 12, 2021
Jane, my sincere condolences to you, Jonathan, and Amy with the passing of Charles.
I am sure he will be greatly missed by his family as well as the many others he interacted with during his very achieving life.
I offer this not only for me but especially for my Dad and Annie Lee.
They often talked very kindly of Charles and you and I wanted you to know that. Charles and your kindness to them in their senior years was much appreciated.
I will look forward to the upcoming Obituary and be thinking of you.
January 11, 2021
Dr. Hadley was my professor at Queens for four incredible years (alumni class of 2003). I was also his work-study for two years. This enabled me to spend many hours with him in his treasure-trove of an office, entertained by his stories of working with Hollywood royalty.
Hanging out with Charles Hadley was NEVER a dull experience. His enthusiasm and humor were infectious, his encyclopedic knowledge of drama enlightening, his warmth and mentorship were peerless—even within the halls of Queens surrounded by so many gifted educators and scholars.
You only had to hear Dr. Hadley's voice once for it to be forever etched in your mind. He impacted so many just by being himself. A natural orator, a dynamic and demanding teacher, a leader and confidant, a public treasure, and a loyal husband and companion to his beloved wife and Theatre collaborator, Jane Hadley.
There is a line in one of Tennessee Williams' lesser-known plays, where the playwright says, "Life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by you so quickly you hardly catch it going." I'm sure this is true for most people, Charles Hadley being an exception. For a man as accomplished as Dr. Hadley, it would have been natural to dwell on the past, but that's not how he was wired. That's not what made him tick. He always caught the present moment and ushered you in to experience it and revel in it right there with him. He didn't want anyone's life to pass them by. That's what made him such an amazing professor for over 5 decades.
I am a better person for having had Dr. Hadley in my life—and I'm sure there are many, many others who feel the same.
May his legacy continue to inspire and be celebrated.
Forever your student,
January 11, 2021
Jane and Jonathan, I am so sorry to hear of the loss of Dr. Hadley. Though I did not know him well, I felt like I did as mom loved you all so. Sending prayers of peace and comfort in knowing what a gift he was to so many.
January 10, 2021
I am bereft. No one shaped my life more than Charles...Jane, too. I was blessed to have known Jonathan and Amy from the time they were small and to watch them grow into the adults of whom their father was so proud. There are just too many memories swirling to share. Funny, fun and above all, inspiring. He guided so many people and careers with his love of the language and drama. The world is smaller today without Charles Hadley in it.
January 10, 2021
Although our dear Charles is no longer with us, he will live forever in the hearts of those of us who loved him. May we honor him by continuing his legacy of kindness and understanding.
January 10, 2021
Dear Jane and family,
My deepest condolences. I loved Dr. Hadley as I think just about everyone who knew him did. He was the quintessential teacher. He was wise, loving, funny, knowledgable, intelligent, witty, cultured.....and most of all "wicked." As he was fond of reminding me....I owed everything I am... all to him.
He will never leave my heart or memories.
cynthia haldenby tyson
January 10, 2021
Jane and family,
I am so sad to lose Charles. What a wonderful character he was! And how we all loved him.
You have my deepest sympathy and support,
January 10, 2021
I met Charles in 1970 in Athens, Georgia when he was pursuing his doctorate. He and Jane were courting. As fate would have it, they were wed and Charles resumed his career at Queens College, introducing his bride to Charlotte, just as I moved here to teach at UNCC. For years I treasured occasional visits in their home, as well as bumping into them at the Manor.
I have never known a wittier, warmer human than Charles. And “Lady Jane” was his ideal mate. I grieve that I will never see him again, at least on this earth. Bless, you, Charles and Jane, for the delightful times we shared.
January 10, 2021
So very sorry to hear this sad news. Thinking of you, Jane, and your family. Dr. Hadley always made me laugh when he visited my office. Sometimes he would bring little Hardly with him to brighten my day. Faculty, staff and students will have many fond memories!
January 10, 2021
I have fond memories of being in his class at Queens. My prayers are with the family. Margaret James Wilbanks'69
Adelaide Marshall Simpson
January 9, 2021
Just one of a zillion admirers, I was a student of Dr. Hadley’s at Queens College in the late 1970s. I cherished my time in his presence. He transported me to worlds beyond the ordinary with his humorous and dramatic tales of the mundane and magnificent. He taught diction, drama and grace with a unique style and charismatic presence. The day before he passed, coincidentally (or not) I googled Dr. Charles O. Hadley, wondering what had become of this wondrous human being who had made such an impression on my soul. Sadly, I learned of his passing the very next day. Love and light to his family, and to all who were touched by this most special man.
Adelaide Marshall Simpson, Queens College Class of 1980
January 9, 2021
So many stories ; so many times as a student to hear his voice. I am truly sorry that he is no longer with us and my heart goes out to you Jane and to the family. Love- Paula.
January 9, 2021
Dr. Hadley was such an important part of my life at Queens - a trusted advisor, wonderful professor (I still think about his lecture on the perfect tragedy of Oedipus Rex), and a second father when I needed one. Jane, I'm sending you all my love and prayers. Kate
Cynthia Spraker Mills
January 9, 2021
Dearest Jane and Family,
John and I send you our deepest sympathies as you mourn the loss of your dearest Charles. We loved him with you, were better humans for his gift of teaching, treasured the friendship no matter the distance or years, and celebrate the life of a unique and talented extraordinary man beside you. Our hearts and prayers are with you for the peace and comfort of God to be with you for the journey.
January 9, 2021
Thank you for voice and diction class, for comfy chairs in the most fun classroom I ever sat in, for sarcasm and laughter, for your own unique take on literature, for celebrity stories I could never quite be certain were true, and for broadening my mind while showing me a hell of a good time. I will never forget what happens to a young man’s fancy in the Spring, and I will never forget you. Love and prayers to Jane and your children. — Ellen