Buzz Haeger

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Buzz Haeger

BUZZ
written and researched by Grady Kerr

Warren John “Buzz” Haeger was born October 24, 1925 at the West Suburban Hospital in Oak Park, Illinois.

The name is well known by thousands of close harmony fans world-wide. He’s known for so many accomplishments and successes throughout his eventful life that many still don’t know the compete story behind this dedicated and generous man.

He grew up in LaGrange and spent many springs and summers visiting his cousin Emil’s place, a popular resort in Wisconsin, and great place for kids to explore. It was 1934 and when he came across a resort guest shooting tin cans off a fence. The man asked young Buzz to run back to his cabin and fetch more ammunition for his pistol. Buzz agreed but noticed a Thompson Sub-machine gun lying on the bed. The man rewarded Buzz with a shiny new silver dollar for the favor.

Later, despite being surrounded by the FBI and a famous gun battle, John Dillinger and his gang managed to escape from Emil’s Little Bohemia Lodge only to be killed three months later in Chicago.

Buzz attended public schools until his second year of high school when he transferred to Western Military Academy in Alton, Illinois. He graduated in 1943, enrolled at Purdue University and was drafted soon afterwards.

Even though he was being drafted for the Army, Buzz insisted on joining the United States Marine Corps. He simply told the recruiting officer in charge that he wouldn’t go unless he could be a Marine.

While in the service Buzz played baritone saxophone with and arranged music for the Halls of Montezuma Marine Corps Band. He had occasion to work with many different professional musicians and stars, including Frank Sinatra, Mel Tormé, Bob Hope, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Ava Gardner, Loretta Young, the Alvino Ray Orchestra and Artie Shaw Bands.

It was back stage he got to meet Mel Torme. A young, charming and eager Buzz told Mel of his five part group, The Lamplighters. Mel was impressed by the young Marine and invited him to a private party at his parent’s house. There he got to hear, up close and personal some great harmony singers like The Meltones, The Town Criers, King Singers and DeMarco Sisters.

Buzz served until honorably discharged from the Marines in 1946.

In 1945, a barbershopper from the San Diego Chapter encouraged him to go and listen to some guys who were getting a chapter together. So Buzz went, fell in love with quartet singing, woodshedding and tag singing, and joined the group. He was a proud sixty-two year member of the Society.

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He returned to Purdue and graduated in 1950 with a B.S. in Engineering.

He went to work at his father’s overhead crane business, Abel-Howe, in Forest Park, Illinois and then enrolled at Illinois Institute of Technology where he received his M.S. in Mechanical Engineering in 1952.

In 1957, Buzz was still single, talented and good looking. Everyone was trying to “set him up”. So when a fellow barbershopper said, "You gotta meet this girl!" Buzz’s reaction was: "Oh no, not ANOTHER blind date." Well, he and Jean hit it off so well they were married on December 14, 1957. They have two children, Diane and Mark. Buzz was a devoted husband and even though his barbershop hobby kept him on the road most weekends, he cared deeply for his wife and kids. He was an outstanding provider for his family.

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He was a successful businessman, a serious competition sailor, a truck driver, auxiliary police officer, movie theater projectionist, and even worked for the Aurora and Elgin Railroad, switching cars.

Buzz went out on his own to start a real estate company, called Indust-Realty, Inc. and become an industrial real estate broker, a business he served and worked in every day when not barbershopping in some way ‘till August of ‘07 when his health began to give out.

Buzz had a wide variety of interests and enjoyed them all. He was a pilot, a golfer, and a baseball player. Musically he was even more versatile. He was an organist, guitarist, played clarinet, flute and saxophone.

He even formed a sax quartet called the Sax Maniacs … of course they played Buzz’s four part arrangements, many of which were created for the Dapper Dans of Disney World for his Dapper Dan friend of many years, Bub Thomas.

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A passionate barbershop singer, gifted arranger, director, coach, emcee and contest judge. He holds the distinction of being the youngest international competition judge. He was only 23.

Buzz was an international quartet medalist earning four medals in his seven appearances – all top TEN – prior to winning his gold medal in Boston in 1965 as the tenor of The Four Renegades.

They performed more than 1000 shows and went on several USO tours where they entertained at hospitals, particularly in contagious wards.

Buzz was a member of MANY other quartets through the years.

His brother Bob “Moose” Haeger was an active quartet man and sang with the popular Barber Q Four Quartet.

Buzz’s sister, Phyllis, got her gold medal as a Queen of Harmony with the 1955 Notabelles. She always enjoyed reminding him she got hers ten years before he did.

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Buzz won his SECOND international gold in 1994 as a senior competitor in The New & Improved Industrial Strength Mini-Chorus”.

We’ve recognized him with several awards through the years including Illinois District’s top honor, the A.B.E. award. Buzz was named to the Barbershop Harmony Society’s Hall of Fame in 2005 and given the 2006 Association of International Champions President’s Award.

He was a major and generous supporter of the Youth in Harmony program for the Barbershop Harmony Society and specifically for the Illinois District.

He wrote over 300 barbershop and modern vocal arrangements. As a serious musician, he had perfect pitch, and always “heard” the entire arrangement in his head before he put it down on paper.

Buzz slipped quietly away Saturday, November 3, 2007 at the age of 82 near his home in Oak Brook, Illinois.

A moving memorial service was held November 17 with well over 100 barbershoppers filling the overflowing choir loft and hundreds of family and barbershop and business friends gathered to pay tribute to their dear friend Buzz.

Buzz could do it all. Sing every part, arrange it, judge it, coach it, direct it and was perhaps the greatest woodshedder of all time. His memory was also the best. He knew more songs than anybody. Nobody knew his chords like Buzz. He often taught, not intros or tags but … “middles”.

No matter if it was family, business, music or friends – Buzz was a devoted, dedicated, totally committed participant. He loved everybody and everybody loved Buzz.

Buzz always had a song in his heart … and generously shared it with us all.


Quotes

What a force he was - I will miss seeing his face at LDJ each year, he will always be in my thoughts. - Chad Guyton

A truly "BEAUTIFUL LIFE". - Bob Franklin

He was the epitome of what barbershop is all about - Terry Heltne

If you sang a tag which Buzz was teaching, you invariably would have to learn the rest of the song - Dick Kingdon

He was absolutely AMAZING! What a grand gentleman - Mike Spencer

Rest in peace, Uncle Buzz. There will never be another like you. - Jim Bagby

Buzz considered the comfort and welfare of others before his own. With all his talents, he sincerely appreciated the talents of others. He made all of us feel special, and that was his best talent of all. - Kenny Hatton

And while some taught tags...Buzz taught “middles”. A renegade indeed. Buzz was a great barbershopper - and if possible an even greater man. - John Miller

I, along with hundreds of friends of his, will miss him like crazy. - Walter Latzko

Buzz has done what we all aspire to - he has left an indelible mark on the world, and will be remembered by many as someone who made a difference.- Clay Hine

Buzz has been a true personal friend and I will always remember him. God bless you, Buzzer. I will truly miss you.- Bill Myers

Buzz was a true gentleman, a great friend, business associate, mentor, coach, and guidance counselor. He will be sorely missed. - Greg Wright

A very easy man to LOVE. 'nough said. - Larry Tully


Buzz Quartets


Buzz Credits

  • Chicagoland West Suburban chapter member
  • AHSOW Charter Member
  • Arranger/Songwriter (500+ songs)
  • Chorus Hall of Fame
  • BHS Hall of Fame
  • Chorus BOTY
  • Friend to Barbershop Harmony & YIH