DAYS legend Bill Hayes’s (Doug) family and friends gathered on Saturday, February 10 at the First Christian Church of North Hollywood to celebrate his remarkable life at his memorial service. His wife of nearly 50 years, Susan Seaforth Hayes (Julie), was among those to eulogize him. Read her speech below.
“The look of love. Bill Hayes had it and made this world shine with it, especially when he was looking at us. He was born to matchless parents whose three boys grew up to become part of what America calls the greatest generation. His lady mother, Betty, had the playful warmth and imagination of a fairy queen Betty. William Foster Hayes, his debonair father, was a nurturing parent with theatrical flair in his robust tenor voice. Billy’s first memory of being alive was climbing out of his crib and crawling along the floor to the top of the stairs so he could hear his father’s barbershop quartet rehearsing. The Hayeses lived in Harvey, Illinois, a suburb of mighty Chicago and little Billy loved to play baseball. He played baseball every day with his brothers and the kids in the neighborhood and he also played piano, with the natural ear to knock out any tune in any key. This unsettled his piano teacher, who discouraged such unbridled musicality. So he switched to the violin and fiddled away until his 92nd year. At Thornton High School, he joined the orchestra and began singing with his dad in the church choir. He told me sometimes in this church, he could hear his dad’s voice harmonizing with him on all the grand old hymns. Back at Thornton in the string section, he sat across from the lovely Mary Hobbs. The petite redhead made quite an impression and was to become the first Mrs. Bill Hayes when they attended DePaul University together.
Yes, during World War II, he joined the Navy and and trained to become a fighter pilot. And the service taught him how to navigate by air and sea, how to fly a Stearman — that’s an open cockpit plane. Goggles, white scarf. Yeah, just like you imagine. The Navy also taught him to dive off a 50-foot platform swim five miles fully clothed in one go, taught him to survive for three days on a deserted beach without food or water, and how to kill a man with his bare hands. Not planning to use these skills in civilian life, he was very happy to muster out of the Navy 24 hours after Japan surrendered. But he loved the flying. He’d dream about it many times, wake up with a smile on his face.
Here are some of the things he accomplished in his marvelous years among us. He raised five children, years later became a positive mentor to his 12 grandchildren. He helped build a village hospital in Angola, he wrote two published published books, was working on the third, he took up dancing seriously at 65, he earned a master of music degree at Northwestern and at 73, a doctorate of education at the University of West Virginia. He also served on the boards of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the Professional Dancer’s Society for 30 years and of course, First Christian Church. He had a gold record, he starred on Broadway for Rogers and Hammerstein and in over 100 musicals, plays and national tours. He made the cover of Time magazine in 1976, representing the pop culture of daytime drama, and from 1949 to 2024, participated in the dawn, high summer and sunset of network television as we know it. There is a Lifetime Achievement Award on his piano. I should hope so.
The following list of some of his favorite things — besides chocolate — Italy, grand opera, lyrics, puns of his own composing, family dinners and choir rehearsals and tap dancing and up tunes, new places to visit and old songs to sing. The Dodgers. New York City. Serenades and sunshine in the morning. Performing, poached eggs, The Count of Monte Cristo and Casablanca, every single Christmas card with photos of his friends and family, colored markers and piles of sheet music, an old safari jacket he wore to every continent and the morning sports pages and his grandmother’s violin. Red roses, red lips, red sauces, red wine and an Indian ruby he gave to me. He took me to the Taj Mahal, he took me me to the pyramids, he took me to the Great Wall of China, and he took me to paradise with every kiss.
Songs he composed: ‘Ramshackle Daddy,’ ‘Here Comes The Macy’s Parade’, ‘I Love To Tap’ and ‘I’ve Got The World By The Tail’. Joyful tunes from a heart pounding with the rhythms of life. His mind and spirit never changed, I promise — it never changed til all those happy birthdays took his strength away. What gifts he had, my sweetest of sweethearts, my beautiful, ageless troubadour.
my Luve is like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June;
O my Luve is like the melody
That’s sweetly played in tune.
What will people remember about this exuberant, intelligent, spiritual gentleman? The music, the great performances, the good times? You know, besides his talents, each one of you spoke of his kindness. In Webster’s Dictionary, the word kind means gentle and generous. Yeah, that’s it. I mean, that’s it exactly. He treated all strangers as potential friends and never returned indifference with a harsh word or a cynical remark. Why did we all love him so much? Because he saw us. Bill gave everyone — a visitor at his door or a troubled grandchild — a smiling greeting that was full of optimistic expectation. But he saw in us something wonderful and we became, in his company, as wonderful as we all want to be. No surprise, his favorite movie was Love Actually. He was passionately reaching out to people his whole life’s song, with a song, a story and that look of love, love that transcends time and lifts us all into the light sublime where creation never ends and we all are shining, too. May his love live on to warm you in his light. And oh, how bright is Billy’s light.”