Thursday, July 3, 2014 —
At the organ, in the garden, in the classroom or at the skating rink, Thelma Hatley was full of life and full of love, say family and friends who are mourning the loss of the 86-year-old great-grandmother and retired music teacher who died Monday in a traffic accident in Monroe.
Laura Martin said Wednesday she believes her mother may have passed away before the head-on collision at the intersection of Concord Avenue and U.S. Highway 601 North. According to the accident report filed by Monroe Police, Hatley failed to stop her 2004 Jeep Cherokee at the stop sign at the end of Concord Avenue and drove into the path of a northbound 2010 Ford driven by Gwen Hathcock of Concord around 6 p.m. Monday. Hathcock and her passenger were treated and released from Carolinas Medical Center-Main.
Martin said a witness to the incident reported Hatley was going about 35 mph as she rounded the curve near the intersection, but slumped to the right before going past the stop sign and veering right into Hathcock, who, according to the report, was also traveling about 35 mph.
“She was probably gone before the accident, which is a blessing,” said Martin, who said her mom had not felt well lately and in fact had told her doctor earlier on Monday that she was experiencing pain behind her eye.
Martin had taken Hatley home from the doctor and was later leaving Hatley Skating Rink, which is about a mile from the accident scene, when she saw the road was blocked because of a wreck involving a white Jeep.
“I went up the road to her house and saw her Jeep was gone and came back and parked near the wreck and ran up there, and the police told me it was her and that she didn’t make it,” Martin said. Hatley lived on Secrest Shortcut Road.
A registered nurse, Martin had helped care for her father, Stanly County native Everett Hatley, until his death in 2011, and was a constant companion and caregiver for her mother, whom she described as a woman of faith who was both fair and quick to forgive.
“After my daddy died, I was up there a lot to make sure she was OK,” Martin said.
“She had had heart problems and had had a pacemaker put in, but she was doing OK,” she said as she remembered a particular visit when she found Hatley sorting through a box of items in her home.
“She told me,‘Laura, you can go through your life and it doesn’t matter what you do, what matters is what you do for Jesus.’ ”
A graduate of Meredith College with a degree in music, Hatley had played the piano or organ in churches since the age of 12.
“She was great at the piano and the organ. She could play anything,” said Betty Baucom of Albemarle, Hatley’s sister-in-law.
Most recently, Hatley shared her talents at Benton’s Crossroads Baptist north of Monroe. She also shared her love of music with the children she taught from the late 1960s to the mid 1980s at Stanfield Elementary, where her husband also served a stint as principal.
“She didn’t have any favorites. She cared for all of the kids,” Martin said.
That care extended to the hundreds of young people who passed through the skating rink the Hatleys opened in 1956. A landmark of sorts, the rink where Hatley’s great-grandson is now learning to skate provided fond memories for many growing up in Monroe.
Just shy of her 87th birthday, Hatley often still dropped in at the rink. She also still enjoyed gardening.
“She was very loving. She was wonderful. Everybody loved her," Baucom said.
Martin echoed the sentiment.
“She was so good to me. She really loved her family,” Martin said.
“I had her for 60 years and that was a real blessing.”
Hatley’s funeral is at 2 p.m. Thursday at Benton’s Crossroads Baptist in Monroe.
Luanne Williams is a freelance contributor for The Stanly News & Press.