Wilbur “Bill” Haggett, 88, died January 21 at Danbury Hospital, following a short illness. He lived in Marblehead, Mass., for most of his life before moving to Newtown in 2011 to be near his beloved daughter Linda and her family. He was born in Lynn, Mass., on January 13, 1930, to Mabel (Little) Haggett and Wilbur Haggett, and was the oldest of five children.
Mr Haggett’s unending passion for music and dance began in 1946 when he was inspired by the Fred Astaire movie Blue Skies. His dream to be a dancer and choreographer led him to relocate to New York City, and he ultimately developed a dedication and work ethic to his art that led him to seek teachers and mentors such as Danny Daniels and Gower Champion.
Following his military service as a drummer in the Air Force Band, he returned to New York to focus on his dance career. Ultimately, Mr Haggett became a professional dancer performing in hotels, theaters, and nightclubs in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. While performing at a nightclub at Scaroon Manor in the Adirondacks, he met Midge Miner, who became his dance partner and just six months later, the two were wed in Marblehead, Mass.
The professional dance team of Midge and Bill Haggett spent the next several years performing across the United States and regularly appeared on such TV shows as the Glenn Miller Hour and The Ed Sullivan Show. At one point, they were deemed to be “the next Marge and Gower Champion” and their performances were always positively reviewed by Broadway critics. Through these incredible years, they worked with Gene Kelly, Robert Goulet, Tony Bennett, Sid Caesar, Sammy Davis, Jr, and many more. During those years, Mr Haggett also worked as the choreographer for the Sheri Lewis and Gary Moore television shows.
In 1962, now with two young daughters, they decided to settle back in Marblehead to share their talents with young, aspiring dancers from the community and opened Midge and Bill Haggett’s School of Dance. Within a few years, the school evolved into The Young Dance Company of America and performed regularly around the greater Boston area and at Walt Disney World in Florida. While teaching the art of dance, Mr Haggett focused on a foundation of relaxation, personal well-being, and high self-esteem. Over the years, the two taught and mentored thousands of young and teenage girls from their home studio. Mr Haggett’s loved ones say his “believe in yourself” philosophy in the dance studio positively influenced many personal lives. In addition to learning dance, performing on stage and just having fun, Mr and Mrs Haggett’s girls learned lessons that they would carry through life. Today, many alumni fondly remember their time in the YDC as a life-changing experience.
When Mr Haggett relocated to Newtown in 2011, he connected with Diane “Miss Diane” Wardenburg, owner of the Lathrop School of Dance, in order to stay active in his art and share his gifts with the local youth. Among the staff and students of the Lathrop School, he quickly became known and loved as “Broadway Bill.”
Whether in New York, Marblehead, or Newtown, Mr Haggett’s master of the art, attitude of positivity, and professional demeanor always affected those he met and inspired so many to reach for their stars. Those who knew him say he will be eternally loved and missed by all.
His daughter Linda Burke, son-in-law John, and granddaughter Melissa, all of Brookfield; and daughter Lisa Haggett of Lexington, Ky., survive him. He is also survived by his siblings, Ted Haggett and his life partner Cherry Bean of Amesbury, Mass.; Jane Vlasuk and her husband John of Sandown, N.H.; Carolyn Merrill and her husband Howie of Alfred, Maine; and Clarke Haggett and his wife Karen of Maryville, Tenn.; and several nieces and nephews, who all loved him very much. He also leaves behind his special Dance Company collaborators and close friends.
His wife Midge predeceased him in 2015.
The details for a memorial service to honor Mr Haggett are incomplete and will be announced by the family.
Donations in Mr Haggett’s memory may be made to the Virginia & Mack Lathrop Scholarship, c/o Newtown Scholarship Association, PO Box 302, Newtown CT 06470. The scholarship was developed by the late Ginny Lathrop of Lathrop’s School of Dance to fund a high school student with aspirations of pursuing a professional dance career.