Fred Hafner was
born in Buffalo, New York, on April 22, 1912, one week after the
Titanic sank and two months after Arizona became a state. His father
was a vice president of a meat packing company, so Fred’s dad literally
brought home the bacon. (Fred and his sister grew up eating plenty of
good protein.) When Fred was twelve, his father introduced him to golf,
taking him along to play at a local course. Fred was provided with old
wooden clubs cut down to his size. From then on, Fred and his friends
snuck onto fairways away from the club house in order to practice. That
began Fred's long involvement with golf, which became his favorite
activity until he finally had to put away his clubs at age 95.
In his early twenties, Fred and his golfing buddies took a long road
trip in a 1924 Model T Ford, purchased for $45, driving through Canada
all the way to Vancouver, BC. The first stop was Callander, Ontario, to
see the Dionne quintuplets, who were on public display in a specially
built nursery equipped with one-way viewing screens. In Saskatoon, they
crossed the South Saskatchewan River on a ferry barge drawn by a rope.
In Banff they encountered glaciers right down to the road and took the
opportunity to drive on one for a few miles “just because we could.” En
route they stayed with relatives, or camped, returning to Buffalo via
Yellowstone Park and the Oklahoma oil fields. The car had no side
windows, just celluloid side curtains. Since that trip Fred has never
lost his appetite for long road journeys. He took his wife and
daughters on many lengthy summer car trips, always in an
un-air-conditioned Buick. He recently took a casual day trip with one
of his assistants to see, yet again, London Bridge in Lake Havasu City.
Throughout his life Fred has had an interest in science and technology.
Fred was fifteen when he became captivated by astronomy. He immediately
built his own reflecting telescope, grinding the eight inch concave
mirror himself. That telescope is still out on his patio in Sun City
West. While in high school, he built his own chemistry laboratory in
the basement coal bin of his parents’ home. Later he built another lab
in the basement of his own first house, where he performed many
chemical experiments for his personal amusement and the instruction of
his daughters. In 1934, he became fascinated by shortwave radio and
bought a Scott radio kit. Late at night he would listen to Quito,
Ecuador; Moscow; and several German stations. The radio still sits in
his Sun City West den--and still works! In 1948, he bought a TV kit,
and the Hafner household became the first on their block to receive TV
broadcasts. For Fred, the home barometer was more than a
decorative wall object; it was a scientific instrument with practical
uses. When there was a tornado alert, he would herd the family down to
the southwest corner of the basement, barometer in hand. The family
would huddle around it, sometimes the only light a candle, and watch
the needle fall. When it started to rise again, Fred would declare the
“all clear.” Through all this time, Fred’s favorite magazine was
the National Geographic, and he has a complete fifty year
Fred went to college at the University of Buffalo (now the State
University of New York at Buffalo) and became the first member of his
family to get a college degree, majoring in food chemistry. He met his
future wife Dolores Wonnacott in chemistry class. The two students
engaged in a flirtatious bet: Fred maintained that Dolores wouldn't be
allowed to do a difficult and potentially dangerous experiment, whereas
the "experienced" Fred would get permission. Fred was right. The
professor, as perhaps Fred knew, took a dim view of girls as chemists.
Fred's prize for winning the bet? Dolores had to take him out for
a chocolate soda. That was their first date. The relationship
prospered, in part because of the plentiful roasts and steaks available
at Fred's parents' during the Depression.
In 1937, after both Fred and Dolores had graduated and were now working
in Buffalo, Fred was transferred by the Archer Daniels Midland company
to its offices in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Dolores decided to follow
Fred, and they were married in Minneapolis at the First Baptist Church
the day after she arrived on the train.
Fred and Dolores eventually moved to Edina, Minnesota, and raised two
daughters, named after southern states (though they had no special ties
to the South). Georgia was actually named after Dolores's father
George, but when a second daughter arrived, they chose the name
Virginia (Ginger). During this time, Fred went on to General Mills,
where he spent the remaining 30 years of his career. As a food chemist,
technologist, and nutritionist, Fred developed foods for people with
metabolic deficiencies, renal disease, and gluten intolerance. He
collaborated with doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN,
producing the Mayo Clinic Renal Diet Cookbook, which allowed patients
with kidney disease to require dialysis less often. He also contributed
to the evolution of Multi-Purpose Food (MPF), a high protein soy
product that could be added to the diet of malnourished people in
India, Mexico, and other developing countries. The high point of his
career was the trip he took to India in
1959 to introduce MPF there.
Meanwhile, the family spent a lot of their free time out-of-doors. Fred
bought an aluminum canoe, and the family filled many happy summer
afternoons canoeing on Minneapolis lakes. Summer vacations typically
included a stay by a northern Minnesota lake, a car trip to National
Parks in the west, or a trip “back home” to visit Buffalo relatives.
Winters found the Hafners ice skating, building snow forts, and
shoveling snow together. Fred and Dolores were both very active in
support of the girls' schools, Girl Scouts, and their musical
activities. Fred used the telescope he had built at 15 to teach his
daughters, the neighborhood kids, and the Girl Scouts about the
planets, the solar system, and all the stars.
After his girls had moved away from home, Fred decided in the early 60s
that he had time to join the Rotary Club. He has continued his active
membership to this day. He retired from General Mills in 1976, and
that's when he and Dolores decided to winter in Arizona. They relocated
permanently to Sun City West in 1981 when their lakefront house in
Minnesota was condemned by the city of Plymouth to make a county park.
Fred and Dolores became very active in their new Arizona community.
They were part of the Prides local civic group from its inception,
retiring at last after 25 years of dutiful weeding of the town
boulevards. They golfed locally as members of Pebblebrook Golf Club,
where Fred earned a green jacket. They swam regularly--Fred taking
pride in the fact that he could swim the length of the pool under water
in a single breath--and hiked and picnicked in the nearby mountains.
They were (and Fred remains) stalwart members of Bellevue Heights
Baptist Church, where Fred was long a deacon. Fred has done much
calligraphy work for his Arizona Rotary Club. He has also spoken on
world hunger to his club and others.
Fred and Dolores celebrated their 71st Anniversary in 2008. Dolores was
still directing the management of the house; Fred did the work.
However, in November of that year, she developed congestive heart
failure and passed away at the age of 99. Since then Fred has continued
to live in their home with the help of four wonderful assistants. He
works out weekly with his personal trainer at the fitness center, sings
karaoke regularly at Coco's Grand (check out “Fred Hafner” on YouTube),
attends Rotary meetings every Friday, goes to church on Sundays, and
watches his beloved golf on TV. He even still spends some late
afternoons on the golf course, with his assistant driving the cart;
these days, however, it is not the little white ball they chase but
rabbits! He also spends a week each summer with his daughters at his
timeshare in Sedona. He is enjoying life fully.
Fred had always wanted to see in the new millennium. Done. Then he had
to come up with a new goal, and he’s been counting down the days to
this 100th birthday for the last two years. Now he has to think ahead,
and Frank Sinatra has provided the inspiration for the next milestone.
It's in Fred's theme song, “Young at Heart”: “And if you should survive
to 105, think of all you'll derive out of being alive....” That's the
next horizon for a person who is definitely “Young at Heart.”