Art Hays

My father was the Supervisor of Special Education for Butler County Schools. One aspect of his job was to recruit and supervise speech therapists. In this aspect of his work his greatest triumph was finding Art Hays. Art was a young guy with the brightest and most sincere smile imaginable. He had red hair and the fair complexion to go with it. You might say that he could “light up a room.” At one time he had, apparently, done just that. He was a remarkable singer who performed in high school, college and professional roles to the acclaim of many. In one case, so I was told, he was all the equal to the female lead who sang with him. Because that female lead was Shirley Jones who we would later know from The Music Man and The Partridge Family, Art must have been exceptional.

The life as a performer was not his ambition. He decided to become a speech therapist much to the dismay of his mother. “Why”, she wondered, “would you give up singing?” His reply was simply, “I do sing. I sing to my children.”

I know of his “singing” from the results I saw with my classmates. A bright young boy from a dairy farm who could not complete a sentence without getting caught by a stammer became a college professor. Another boy with a hard lisp later had the lead in his senior class play and performed flawlessly. A charming bright girl who never had said an “R” in her life won a statewide scholarship pageant and became an effective and forceful speaker.

Art and his wife had a son, “PJ” who had health problems from birth. After a struggle of several months, he died. Art told my dad that all the men in his family died young and he expected to do the same. After more miracles than many of us can perform in a long life and long before the number of miracles we would like to have seen him perform, Art Hays died at age 31. I imagine his “singing”, however, lives on.