When Dale Hague died unexpectedly on the last day of May in 2011, he left behind not only a stricken and grieving family, but also an empty chair at the head of a non-profit youth center he and his wife established for Peabody young people.
Hague grew up in Peabody and graduated with the class of 1966. When he became a dentist, he established his practice here. After he married and had a family, he and his wife moved to Peabody to raise their children here.
“He loved Peabody and wanted his kids to have the same kinds of experiences growing up that he had,” his wife, Doe Ann Hague, said.
Their three children all attended Peabody schools. The Hagues also took in foster children, and Dale was a mentor to numerous friends and acquaintances of his children, according to his wife.
“Believe me, there were many times that he came home and didn’t know who was setting at the table because a child in crisis had been delivered to our doorstep,” she said. “But there was always room for them. And he was a wonderful mentor to students who had trouble with math or science. He was patient and very good at explaining it. It wasn’t unusual either for students to call him many years later from some college campus because they were having trouble in one of those subjects.”
The Hagues’ interest in the youth of the community is what eventually led them to establish the HUB, a downtown youth center. It opened in the spring of 2006.
“At first we thought it would provide the kids with some place fun to go after ball games and on weekends,” she said. “Our two oldest children were grown and out on their own, but high school kids were still getting into cars and driving on U.S. 50 Highway to go hang out at Newell’s in Newton or ride around over there.
“We thought if there was a fun place for them to go locally, they would be safer,” she said. “But we had no idea, really, how tough it would be to provide enough excitement to keep them here.”
Hague said that as it became more difficult to hold the interest of the older students, she and her husband began seeing a different group of children using the facility. The kids were younger and many were needier.
“And they really did need supervision and a safe place. At some point, we knew the HUB’s purpose had changed,” she said. “It is way different now than we originally thought it would be. The HUB has evolved into something much more important.
“Not only can kids come here to do homework, hang out, and have a safe environment with positive role models, but it is almost home for some,” she added.
Hague declined to be too specific about the needs of the youngsters who go there, citing their need for privacy.
“But I can tell you that we have had calls in the middle of the night because a child is sitting in front of the HUB because of a destructive situation at home. We have children who are hungry, children who need help with schoolwork, children who are bullied and need a friend,” she said. “The HUB’s mission has evolved into something much more important than hanging out with friends after a basketball game.”
She said another surprise has been the multiple groups and individuals who want to use the building for class reunions, meetings, retreats, birthday parties, showers, or family gatherings. Student groups from neighboring communities have used it for after-prom parties, lock-ins, and other school activities.
“By renting the facility, we have a small stream of income that helps us stay open,” she said.
The HUB struggles to stay solvent, as do many groups that exist to help troubled or fragile members of society.
“Emotionally we have had a rough time as a family since Dale died,” she said. “The first year is almost behind us and sometimes it is hard to believe it has been that long.
“We have been able to keep the HUB afloat with memorial donations that came in after his death and the contributions from the local churches and the city. People were generous when we asked for help with the New Year’s Eve party and that was wonderful because we draw kids from all over the county for that and it gives them someplace safe to be.”
She said the size of the mortgage on the building is a worry for her.
“Dale was paying that out of his practice,” she said. “Somehow we have managed to keep going month to month, but just squeaking by is not the answer.”
The HUB is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and she hopes that status might be a way to leverage more help through grants and government programs.
She said they have restructured their board of directors and added some new members who have fresh ideas and she hopes they will be more successful at fundraising.
The HUB will host a free-will donation sloppy joe supper on May 25. The youth center will be open for people to look over and enjoy an evening meal. Later there will be a dance for local youngsters with the band On the Blacktop headlining the event.
“I really hope people will come see how much we have to offer,” she said. “I’m hoping people who went to school with Dale will check it out and realize how much of himself he put into doing this for their hometown and his. It meant everything to him to be able to give back to the community.”
During his years practicing dentistry in the Peabody community, Dale was active in civic organizations such as Kiwanis, Peabody Main Street, Chamber of Commerce, and the Peabody Community Foundation. He was always willing to coach a team, provide a disadvantaged child with free dental care, take a part in a Candlelight Tour production, or donate to any community cause.
“But next to raising three great kids, his greatest satisfaction came from seeing the HUB become a place of welcome and safety for some of Peabody’s most disadvantaged children,” Hague said. “More than anything, the HUB reflects how much he cared.”