Billy Michael Haga
May 24, 1948 – May 6, 2019
Billy Michael Haga left this life on Monday, May 6, 2019, after fighting failing health for more than 2 years. Over 50 years of cigarette smoking took their toll and were a major cause of his health issues. He was 70 years old. He is survived by his wife of 38 years, Janie Danhof Haga; step-son, Allen Read; adopted sons, Eric Haga and Marc Haga; brother, Kent Haga; sister-in-law Melody Haga; nephews Christopher and Michael Haga; nieces, Heather and Brooke Haga; aunt, Mary Ellen Duke; two grandsons, Benjamin and Duke Read; and all of the Danhof clan, Janie’s family who love him dearly and all claim him as theirs. He was preceded in death by his mother, Patricia Genevieve Carlin Haga, who succumbed to Hodgkin’s Disease at 38 when Billy was only 13. His father lost a brief battle with pancreatic cancer in 2000 at the age of 74.
Billy was born in Wichita, Kansas, to Cecil and Patricia Haga on May 24, 1948. He was their first born. His father was a World War II Navy veteran who served on aircraft carriers in the Pacific Theater. This service led him to a life-long love of aircraft and flying things. He would become an aerospace engineer after the war and design and test both fixed-wing and rotor craft platforms including the Vought Corsair II and the Bell V-22. When he returned from the war, Cecil worked the oil fields of Texas prior to beginning his studies. During this time in Texas, Billy’s mother became pregnant with him. He used the location of his conception as the basis for his claim to be a native Texan. He would explain that despite his live birth in Kansas, he was conceived in Muleshoe, Texas, and thus began as a Texan. Prior to his birth, his father secured his first position in the aerospace industry with Boeing Airplane Company. The family lived in Wichita in his early years while his father worked at Boeing and studied aerospace engineering. When his father took a job with Vought Aircraft in Dallas, the family moved to Texas when he was 12 years old. It was soon after the move to Texas that his mother fell ill and died. His Grandma Haga served as caretaker for Billy and little Kent who was only 4 for several years. Their father remarried four years after their mother’s passing. His second wife, Lucy, came with 3 boys of her own. The new blended family moved to a larger home in Arlington. Billy was not a great fan of this union and left home upon graduation from high school.
He attended Arlington public schools where he was active in the choir and later in art. Upon graduation from Sam Houston High School in Arlington, Billy attended the University of Texas at Arlington where he earned a degree in Advertising Design. While in college, he began working the night shift in the technical arts department at Vought Aircraft’s missiles division. Upon graduation, he secured full time employment at Vought as a graphic designer working on exhibits, displays, business proposals, corporate reports and presentations. He played a key role in the development of the corporate identity of the LTV Corporation when Vought expanded and changed its name to encompass industrial fields outside aerospace.
Billy and his father, Cecil, shared a love for airplanes and the science of flight. They competed and won national awards in flying both powered and unpowered model radio-controlled aircraft. Growing up with a dad that loved airplanes gave Billy a lexicon of information on aircraft. Billy could name the make and model of just about any aircraft he saw – both on the ground and in the sky. He assisted his father in the design and sales of their own custom glider model aircraft. His success as a remote-controlled aircraft pilot and his love for the craft led him to leave his employment at Vought/LTV Corp. in 1977 to become national sales director for Logictrol, a company manufacturing the radio control systems for model aircraft and for other unmanned flying platforms.
He left Logictrol in 1979 to join the Drawing Board, Inc. in Dallas, a company which designed and manufactured greeting cards and other specialty printed items. He served a number of roles at this firm including design, estimating and project management. When the company, sold and moved to Connecticut, he decided the east coast was not for him. He took a position in 1981 as an account executive with Proctor Press in Dallas where he managed large corporate commercial printing accounts. In the mid-1980s, he joined Corporate Graphics as an account executive where he was able to once again use his design skills to create and produce a wide range of complex marketing and advertising campaigns for firms such as American Airlines and JC Penney.
In 2005, he left Corporate Graphics to become head of IED Limited, a nutraceutical company offering aloe-vera-based products to medical professionals and specialty retailers. The company was founded by Janie’s father, Dr. Ivan Danhof, a recognized expert in aloe vera and its healing properties. The products the company sells are all those developed by Dr. Danhof in his laboratory in Grand Prairie, Texas. Billy was serving as President of the company at the time of his passing.
In his personal life, Billy loved automobiles and all things that go fast. He built and raced cars from the time he was in his late teens until 2016 when his health began to limit his ability to pursue his love. He lovingly cared for his1963 MGB which was his mainstay in his racing career in Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) events and later in vintage racing as a leader and active member of the Corinthian Vintage Racing Association (CVRA). He was professionally trained as a driving instructor and served as chief driving instructor for CVRA for many years. He also produced the newsletter for the organization for a number of years and held a variety of leadership roles. He was the proud owner of not only his beloved MG, but of his Formula Ford Alexis, a red open-wheeled race car; and his restored1965 Ford Mustang. Janie accompanied him to many car racing events and even earned her pit crew license so she could actively participate in his car racing. She recounts memorable trips towing the car and enough spare parts to build another one to Texas World Speedway in College Station, Green Valley in nearby Euless, the Tulsa Raceway, and most memorable the one and only Dallas Grand Prix. Billy raced in the vintage race at the Dallas event which was a once in a lifetime “bucket list” experience for the avid driver. In 2014, Billy raced his Alexis in the vintage class at the US Grand Prix held at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. Racing at the world-class track in a companion event with the Formula One elite was a memorable and very rewarding experience for him.
Billy and his dad and brother, Kent, also enjoyed the out of doors. Billy and Kent and several of his lifelong friends were avid fishermen. When they were just young boys, there were many trips to the Brazos River in the spring for the sand bass run. Billy’s dry wit and imagination often times resulted in his causing his little brother a great deal of anxiety. One family story recounted often was his telling Kent that there was a Yeti living in the woods along the banks of the Brazos River. Poor young Kent would believe him and spend hours diligently searching the banks for the monster. The brothers fished in organized tournaments for a number of years in the1980s. In 1985, Bill and Janie purchased a small waterfront cabin on Callender Lake in east Texas located between Athens and Canton. The small lake was jam packed with fish. Billy and Kent spent many enjoyable weekends at the lake house fishing. As Kent’s sons grew up, Michael began to participate with Billy and Kent in the fishing expeditions. There were also a few trips with Janie and Allen for fishing. Janie even had a life preserver for her cat, Alex, who thoroughly enjoyed his rides in the fishing boats. The Hagas first purchased a second-hand fishing rig that was named, “Harold the Boat.” Harold was later replaced by a state-of-the-art Bass Tracker (Andrew the Boat) with fish finder sonar and all the latest technology. Kent also acquired a boat so the brothers could divide and conquer the unsuspecting fish in the lake. The Callender Lake house was not only the location of many fish fries, it also served as Thanksgiving HQ for Janie’s family for many years. Billy and Kent also had the opportunity to fish in the river running through the large Montana ranch of their aunt and uncle, Pony and Mary Ellen Duke. The fly fishing was great fun in addition to the trail riding and exploring the beautiful Montana landscape.
His own family life began with his first marriage to Cathy Haga in 1972, during which he adopted her two sons, Eric and Marc, from a previous marriage. This relationship ended in1979. On May 3, 1980, he was goaded into a blind date by one of his former colleagues at Vought/LTV. That blind date, the only one he ever had, was with Janie Danhof, a young writer and journalist who had recently joined Vought as a technical writer. Their mutual friend had advised them both that they would be just perfect for each other. And she was right.
After that date, the world changed for both Billy and Janie. Their interests, talents and personalities complemented one another. They had fun together. He tolerated her feeble attempts at cooking. She loved the excitement of his race car driving. They rescued animals together. They took on freelance work that combined his design ability and her writing skills. They shared the same taste in music. They both had soft hearts for anything or anybody that needed help or a hug or both. The pair has always celebrated May 3 as their true anniversary.
Janie was a package deal with her son from her first marriage, Allen, who was 7 years old when the couple wed. They were married on September 18, 1981 with Allen giving her away. Janie sang Debbie Boone’s hit, “You Light Up My Life,” to Billy before she and Allen processed to the front of the church. The song was their theme song and held true for 39 years. Janie and Billy have treasured for years the comment that Allen made to his second-grade teacher regarding the marriage when he stated, “We prayed for a new Daddy and we got more than we expected.” Janie and Allen can both attest that this was definitely a true statement.
Billy, Janie and Allen made their home in Grand Prairie for 22 years. During their courtship and early marriage, Janie and Allen attended Bill’s basketball games at the Arlington recreation centers and cheered on Billy and his band of 30-something team mates. Janie and Allen also went along to the many racing weekends to watch Billy racing his MG and supporting his other racing buddies. There were also fishing trips, an infamous tent camping trip and a canoe paddle trip down the Brazos during which Allen announced, “I don’t like it, let’s go back.” The family shared a trip to New Orleans when Allen was 13. During that trip, Billy discovered chicory coffee in the French quarter. Both he and Janie loved the dark rich coffee and it became a permanent part of the menu at home.
Allen attended Evangel Temple Christian School in Grand Prairie from pre-K through high school graduation. Since the school was small, Allen had the opportunity to participate in many school activities and sports. Billy and Janie attended all the basketball games from middle school through high school - only missing one or two. Reluctantly, his parents agreed to allow Allen to play football in his junior year of high school. As the quarterback, he saw a lot of action and Billy and Janie were always there on the sidelines cheering him on. Allen starred in his senior play at Evangel and Billy and Janie designed and built the sets for the theater in the round production.
Allen attended and graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. Billy was in charge of the move first to the dorm and later to an apartment. Billy organized the U-Haul truck and Janie prepared the list of boxes and furniture to be hauled down to Nacogdoches to set up housekeeping for Allen. They reversed the process when he graduated. Allen came back to his high school for an alumnae game when he was a senior in college at Stephen F. Austin State University. When he dunked the ball, he broke his right arm. Billy had to modify his truck so he could drive back to Nacogdoches with a splint on the arm. A few days later, Billy and Janie left Grand Prairie at 3 a.m. to drive to Nacogdoches to be with Allen when he had surgery to repair his arm.
When Allen returned to Grand Prairie after graduation, Billy and Janie took on the task of renovating one of Janie’s parents’ rental properties to set up Allen in his first home. This involved construction, painting, plumbing and electrical work. They were both so pleased and proud of the “nest” they had made for their “baby bird.” Allen enjoyed living in the small home for a number of years.
Billy and Janie were active members at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Grand Prairie, which was founded by Janie’s grandfather, Benjamin John Danhof. Billy was always a ready hand when Janie would organize church cleaning and repair projects. Billy supported Janie’s annual efforts in the Vought canned food drive. They participated in volunteer programs sponsored by Janie’s company. These volunteer programs included laying a concrete slab at the Dallas Life Foundation, organizing family day open houses at Vought’s main plant in Dallas, and gathering canned goods for the annual food drive.
In 2005, Janie was named co-administrator of her Uncle Allen Millar Crouch’s estate. She was responsible for 8 houses and as many automobiles in various states of disrepair. Billy worked with Janie shoulder to shoulder to disposition the vintage automobiles and property. The pair spent weekends and holidays for 19 months renovating two of the rental properties in an historic district of old Oak Cliff in Dallas. The two spent hours learning and executing their skills in plumbing, tile repair, construction. They considered themselves experienced “flippers” when both houses were completed and sold for a sizable profit over the investment.
Animals were always a part of Billy and Janie’s life together. They rescued feral kittens and found homes for them. They volunteered with rescue groups to foster and find homes for kitties. The total of found and homed cats as of 2018 was 51 little furballs.
Billy was great with small furry creatures. He and Janie would take turns coming home from work to bottle feed tiny babies. Janie rescued a litter of kittens born inside one of the local Vought factories. They were going to meet their end at the hands of an exterminating company called by the company’s maintenance department. Instead they went home with Janie, and Bill took them with him to work every day to care for them. Two of the litter are permanent Haga kids today. Billy was most fond of his little girls – Squeaky Pie and Annie. Squeaky Pie is a red tabby who was discovered at the Haga’s barn at 11 p.m. on Thanksgiving night in 2013. She got her name because she was unable to meow most probably because she had been tossed from a car. Annie found Billy at his office. Her mother had been hit by a car just in front of his office building, but the one-pound ball of fluff made it successfully across the street. She walked up to Billy, asked for his help and she found her home. Every evening he would brush them and sing them each their special songs. They are still looking for their daddy.
Billy was great with the cats. He could feed them, give them injections and wrangle them for baths. He was less comfortable with horses and Janie loves horses. In the 1990s, She and Billy cared for her childhood pony, Sebastian, who lived on the undeveloped portion of her maternal grandparents’ (Lue Allen and Greta Millar Crouch) farm located just a few miles from their home in northwest Grand Prairie. Before and after work, the two would troop to the horse barn to brush and feed the 30+ year old Welsh pony. Billy endured being stepped on, kicked, bitten and run over, but never lost his temper with the precious old pony.
In 2003, TXDOT took park land in Mike Lewis Park for Highway 161. To make up for the lost park area, the City of Grand Prairie invoked imminent domain to take the remaining acres of the Crouch farm and Sebastian became homeless at 35 years of age.
Billy and Janie found a “farmette” in far south Cedar Hill, where Sebastian could live in the back yard. There was also plenty of room for the race cars trailers and other equipment associated with Bill’s auto racing love. The couple purchased the farmette which also included a large English Tudor style home, the house the pair had always wanted. They built a new barn for Sebastian and moved the entire collection of animals, cars, boats, cages and tack to Cedar Hill in August of 2003. Sebastian gained a sister, Lillian, who was adopted from a horse rescue organization in 2004. She was the first of several additional equine kids that found forever homes with the Hagas. Billy learned to file hooves, give injections and bathe the equine babies. He spent many an hour shoveling horse poo and cleaning barns, making trips to buy hay and shavings, chasing uncooperative ponies in need of veterinary care and hauling them to the vet. As a surprise anniversary present in 2005, he bought Janie a vintage 2-horse trailer for transporting the equine kids and for using to teach them to load and unload from the trailer. This new piece of equipment made the trips easier and the loading routine instead of a battle of wills.
Janie’s career as an aerospace marketing executive required her to work extremely long hours and to travel extensively. During her many trips, Billy lovingly cared for the horses, cats and dogs that they both referred to as, “our fur babies.” He took over all the duties of fixing food, shoveling poo, cleaning stalls, letting horses in and out, applying flea prevention treatments and giving medications. He became quite adept at pony wrangling associated with clipping and bathing. Billy bought Janie a vintage Ford tractor in 2006 that allowed her to do serious farming. His automotive mechanic skills from his years of racing were put to the test keeping the 1950 model tractor working. They both have enjoyed mowing the acreage and using the tractor’s implements to accomplish the endless list of improvements Janie had for the farm.
Billy often referred to Janie as “Darla” from the 1940s “Little Rascals” series in terms of her occupation and penchant for organizing events and projects. Janie was responsible for trade shows at Vought and her projects many times required her artist husband to pitch in with design and even some hands-on development of her various exhibits. He was always there to make things better for Janie whether it was a work crisis or a sick animal. He was the fixer – her rock, her protector and her comfort from the storms of life.
His love of animals was something he had gained from his mother when he was just a young boy in Wichita. His mother kept ducks in the back yard and Billy recounted playing with the ducks with great pleasure. He always was asking Janie if they could get a duck for the back yard. But ducks and kitties were not a good mix, so the Haga farm never added foul to the herd. His mother taught him to appreciate the outdoors and nature. Billy could identify and name just about any bird he heard even without seeing it. He enjoyed Janie’s love of farming and gardening and watched with much interest but rarely actively participated. He told Janie that he had done enough gardening with his mother and did not feel the need to further participate. She understood and was just happy he found joy in her showing off her potatoes, onions and tomatoes to him.
Billy was a kind gentle man. He was sensitive, more sensitive than he wished anyone to know. He was extremely intelligent and had a wide range of skills in business, art and mechanical disciplines. He had a bit of a temper and was not a very patient person, especially with his family. He was always up-beat and positive with the outside world and shared this attitude with those he encountered. His health issues he knew were the result of his smoking and this was a very difficult reality for him to bear.
He tried to quit smoking several times over the years with Janie begging him to stop. The anti-smoking medications had side effects which bothered him, and he always ended up back smoking. Janie found a hypnotist in 2016 and the hypnosis finally did the trick. Unfortunately, the damage was done to both his lungs and his heart. He had been in declining health for approximately 2 years. Most recently he was hospitalized with a blocked kidney which had led to a sepsis infection. He was having a great deal of trouble breathing and had been bed ridden for the past 2 weeks.
Graveside services are set for 11 a.m. Saturday, May 11, 2019 at the Heritage Mausoleum at Grand Prairie Memorial Gardens, 3001 S. Belt Line Road, Grand Prairie, TX 75052.
The family has requested memorials to Immanuel Presbyterian Church in lieu of flowers. Memorials may be sent to Immanuel Presbyterian Church, P.O. Box 535062, Grand Prairie, TX 75051-5062.
This obituary was written by Billy’s wife, Janie who wishes to add the following:
This is the obituary I never wished to write. I have lost the love of my life. I have lost my life as I knew it. I pray that the Lord will keep my precious Billy close to him and help me find a way forward to continue without him. Our union was one of passion and purpose. We worked hard, fought hard and we loved hard. We cherished each other and our life together. I tried so desperately to help him get better. My grief is all consuming. I pray for God’s mercy and peace.
- Graveside Service Saturday, May 11, 2019
Billy Michael Haga
Charles and Patricia Cash
May 10, 2019
Bill, you came into our lives through our business.(Cash Auto Repair) I think the first time you stopped by and wanted to just look at the classic cars we were working on and told us of your fondness of old classic and vintage cars. I really appreciated the visits thereafter.Together, we had alot of old car stories . You liked my associations with classic mustangs and again you were drawn in. Eventually, you bought yours and brought it by so my wife and I could see it. I said when can I work on it, he said now. So a new beginning of a true friendship began. Eventually Janie would also pop in and bring my wife and I some of her "world famous cookies" as Bill would call them. That started our friendship with her and then meeting their son, Alan. I guess you could say we met through all of our passions for the cars we loved. His 65 mustang and our 66 mustang, and the large amount of other classic mustangs that came around. All of the other owners of those mustangs became known to Bill, and he loved it. We would go to car shows and cruise in's with all of them, and Bill and Janie would come also. Three weeks ago, you stopped by and said, I was just passing by and wanted to stop in and see what you were working on. We are all gonna miss Bill . His absents will surely be felt by all of our mustang friends you came to know...Well old friend, Patricia and I have enjoyed the ride with you and Janie. One day, Bill, we will all meet again along our heavenly journey and we "WILL" ride again,but in our chariots . This is not goodbye "ol' friend"but just a so long, see you later notice. May your family have the peace in their hearts for days to come as I know you would want them to have......So long Friend, we loved you too.
May 10, 2019
Thank you for being my Dad.
From the Brazos River to Possum Kingdom and Pop's lake in DalWorthGardens. You taught me to fish. Thank you for my love of racing , airplanes and R/C.
I still cherish the times you brought me along with you to Green Valley Raceway. Thank you for teaching me to drive stick in the "B".
To Kent , Janie and family. My thoughts are with you all.
May 9, 2019
Bill came along and became an instant father to two rowdy boys who needed one. He was a Great Dad to us. He always made time for us and we made a lot of wonderful memories. I Loved Him. Although the marriage to our mother didn't last, he still stayed involved in our lives. I was very Happy when he found a Wonderful Loving Family again and am grieving with them right now. I am so sorry to hear of their loss of a Wonderful Husband and Father. Bill, you were a Great Man and You are Loved and Missed...Love Forever, Marc