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Community reflects on loss of beloved educator


Photo by Shari Harris
Dan Hatch caught the heaviest lunker, an 8 lb. 4 oz. rainbow trout, at the 2019 Rose Holland Trout Derby, earning him the Slippery Liz 2 award.

By Shari Harris, Publisher

Sometimes an individual comes along who leaves a lasting mark on his community. Dr. Dan “Doc” Hatch was a prime example – as an educator, as a member of his church, and as a friend and neighbor to so many. His passing last week caused those whose lives he affected to reflect upon his life and legacy.

Dan Hatch came by teaching naturally. His mother, Aileen Hatch, left her own impact on the community. She taught mathematics and other subjects for many years, beginning in a one room schoolhouse, then at Licking High School (LHS).

Dan Hatch received his Doctorate while teaching at the college level in Lincoln, Neb. When he returned to Licking in 1972, he became “Doc” Hatch throughout the school and the community. During his first year at LHS in 1976, he probably couldn’t foresee that he would inspire a love for nature and a desire for learning in generations of students, teaching there for a total of 44 years.

Doc Hatch started several organizations and annual projects at LHS. National Honor Society, Science Club, Stream Team, the Science Fair, Insect Collections, and the Envirothon team owed their beginnings to him, and some continue today. He also spent time sponsoring the speech team and National Forensics League.

He was active in the community as well, among other pursuits, he acted as a field consultant for the Missouri Department of Conservation, participated in community theater productions, and at the United Methodist Church, he taught Sunday School, spoke as a lay minister, and worked with youth.

Former students recall Doc Hatch as being intent on giving them the opportunity to learn. His precision of teaching, using his famous notecards to share information; his insistence that students behave in his classrooms so those interested in learning would have that opportunity; and his desire to teach students about nature are among the reasons Doc was remembered as an influential teacher. He inspired generations of students to engage in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and health related fields.

He believed in the potential of his students, and they recognized this.

“Kids want to be encouraged to learn,” Doc Hatch said. “They want to absorb stuff they can actually use.”

In 2001, he retired from full-time teaching, but continued to teach three hours per day until May of 2020, when he retired fully.

When chosen as Teacher of the Month shortly before his second retirement, Doc Hatch said, “This is a career choice I enjoy. Working with kids themselves is not work…the paperwork and business side is work…but I am still excited about working with self-motivated and brilliant students who want what I have to offer.”

Doc Hatch shared with his students his love for the natural resources, wildlife and outdoor recreation of this area, and imparted onto them the importance of protecting the environment. Fishing, turkey hunting, searching for Indian artifacts and bird counting were some of the outdoor activities he loved.

As important as he became to his community, one cannot forget the role of Dan Hatch in his family, as husband to Cookie, father to David and Melissa, and grandfather, great-grandfather and uncle. The sense of loss felt by former students, educators who worked alongside him, fellow members of his church and the community are all minimal in comparison to the impact on his family.

May the family find some solace in the knowledge that the essence of Doc Hatch will live on, each time one of those he touched shares their love of nature, their love of science, or their love of God and family with the next generation.

“We have been blessed to have had such an amazing man as a husband and father. He set an example of how to live life and taught us so much! He was a beloved husband and father, as well as a beloved teacher, mentor, colleague, and friend to so many. He touched many lives and was always willing to share his knowledge and love of life, leading us all to be inspired to be better “huuuuumaaaaans!” ~ The family of Daniel “Doc” Hatch.

In addition to visitation and funeral services on Monday and Tuesday, respectively (see obituary on A3), a candlelight vigil was planned in honor of Dr. Hatch outside the Sherman Hill Field House on Wednesday, January 24, at 5:30 p.m., with everyone invited to attend.

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