Funeral service held for diocesan lay leader George Haggard

By Emily Booker

Generous philanthropist and community leader George O. Haggard, Jr., passed away suddenly on Dec. 12. He was 83.

Mr. Haggard was the most recent recipient of the Immaculata Award, given for his dedication and service to the Diocese of Knoxville.

A funeral Mass was celebrated on Dec. 18 at St. Patrick Church in Morristown. Bishop Richard F. Stika was the principal celebrant. Concelebrants were Father Patrick Brownell, pastor of St. Patrick Church; Father David Boettner, rector of Sacred Heart Cathedral; Father Richard Armstrong, pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Byzantine Church and assistant director of the diocesan Office of Christian Formation; Father Alex Waraksa, associate pastor of St. Patrick; Monsignor Patrick Garrity, pastor of St. John Neumann Church in Farragut; and Father Joseph Mary Hammond, CHS, coordinator of pastoral outreach for the Hispanic communities of Our Lady of Fatima Church, St. Joseph the Worker Church, and St. Alphonsus Church. Monsignor Xavier Mankel was in choir.

Bishop Stika remembers Mr. Haggard as a faithful Catholic and good friend.

“I first met George in 2009 when I was appointed bishop of the Diocese of Knoxville. I will forever be grateful for his friendship, advice, and support. Even with all the success George had in his professional life, he remained true to his conviction as a Catholic and as a Christian. He gifted the Church with faithful leadership, hard work, and complete generosity,” Bishop Stika said.

“George never sought attention for all that he did — but his work for the Church, for his parish in Morristown and for our diocese, in particular, is undeniable. In October, I was proud to present George with the Immaculata Award for his unselfish and unwavering service. In every sense of the word, George was a good man, a good Catholic, and he will be missed, by me personally, and by everyone who knew him,” the bishop added.

A Charlevoix, Mich., native, Mr. Haggard was a graduate of Michigan State University. He served in the Army as a military policeman and was honorably discharged with the rank of corporal. At the time of his death, he was president of Haggard Enterprises in Morristown. In his community, he became known as a strong leader and generous donor. He charitably supported several local institutions, including Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System and Walters State Community College.

Mr. Haggard was an active member of St. Patrick Parish, where he is remembered as a great man and generous soul.

Deacon Sean Smith, chancellor of the Diocese of Knoxville, considers Mr. Haggard “the perfect Christian steward.”

“He exemplified the four key principles in his devotion to the Catholic Church: giving time, talent, treasure, and prayer. He never missed Mass and was devoted and gave all of that and never, ever wanted to be recognized for any of it. I will miss him as a colleague in Christ and as a friend to me personally,” Deacon Smith said.

Mr. Haggard’s dedication and generosity spread throughout the entire diocese. He served on the diocesan Finance Council, the Catholic Education Trust Fund, and the St. Mary’s Legacy Foundation.

Father Armstrong, who worked with Mr. Haggard in directing the Catholic Education Trust Fund, said, “George’s leadership and wisdom made the Catholic Education Trust Fund what it is today. His generous and tireless efforts on behalf of Catholic education will continue to touch the lives of thousands in our diocese.”

John Deinhart, director of stewardship and strategic planning for the Diocese of Knoxville, called Mr. Haggard “probably the most giving, caring Catholic person I ever met.”

“George was involved in the Catholic Education Trust Fund, he chaired that; the Diocesan Finance Committee, the St. Mary’s Legacy Foundation, he chaired all of them. The time, talent and treasure he gave to this diocese and to his parish, St. Patrick’s in Morristown, are immeasurable,” Mr. Deinhart said.

Mr. Haggard is preceded in death by his parents, George O. and Polly K. Haggard; his wife, Shirley; his teenage daughter, Katherine; infant daughter, Karen; and infant son, Sean. Survivors include his daughter, Carol (Bob) Wood; sons George O. “Chuck” Haggard III (Pam) and John (Tammy) Haggard, Jefferson City; grandchildren Shawn (Julie) Wood, Culver City, Calif., Jennifer (Doug) Martinez, Ojai, Calif., George O. “Kyle” Haggard IV, twins Terra Haggard, Richmond, Va., and Tesha Haggard, Knoxville, and Andrew Haggard, Kalamazoo, Mich.;

step-grandchildren Justin and Chasity Dalton; greatgrandchildren Isaiah and Otis Wood and Nova and Cosima Martinez; brothers Jim (Ken) Haggard, Hawaii, John (Phyllis) Haggard, Charlevoix, Mich., and Bill (Lori) Haggard, Beaver Island, Mich.; and his fiancée, Julie Leonhardt.

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