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Hartselle High band director Dexter Greenhaw.
Courtesy photo
Hartselle High band director Dexter Greenhaw.

Longtime Hartselle High band director dies

By Deangelo McDaniel
and Holly Hollman
dmcdaniel@decaturdaily.com
hhollman@decaturdaily.com

HARTSELLE — No matter what was going on in his personal life or how his health was, Dexter Greenhaw always put his students first.

Just shortly after he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease in 2004, for example, Greenhaw sat in his vehicle and watched the Hartselle High soccer team defeat Athens.

"It was a special moment and spoke volumes about Mr. Greenhaw," said Lisa Galloway, whose son, Nick, played for Hartselle.

Greenhaw, who served 10 years as director of Hartselle High's award-winning band, died at his Athens home Wednesday morning. He was 52.

His funeral will be Friday at 3 p.m. at Friendship United Meth-odist Church Multipurpose Building in Athens. The family will receive friends Friday from noon to 2:45 p.m. at the church.

McConnell Funeral Home is handling arrangements.

When doctors diagnosed Greenhaw with Lou Gehrig's disease, he said it was tough, but he accepted it and kept living.

"I've always said, we're all born terminal, it's just how we leave this world," Greenhaw said in a 2006 interview.

"He never lost his humor," said Greenhaw's minister, Cal-vin Havens of Friendship United Methodist Church in Athens. "He was diagnosed two years ago, and he contributed at the church until he could no longer go out a few months ago."

His church family watched as Greenhaw went from being able to play trumpet, guitar and piano to being unable to speak. He served as the church's music director for 17 years.

In October, Dexter, confined to a wheelchair, agreed to let Havens interview him for a video for the church's Web site. Havens said the video has had 90,000-plus hits and the church has received comments from those ranging from band directors to soldiers in Baghdad.

"He knew he was dying," Havens said. "He always kept the faith. He never lost the belief he was going to a better place."

Hartselle High Principal Jerry Reeves called Greenhaw a "dear friend" who was an "outstanding band director." Greenhaw was at Hartselle from 1994 to 2004. He also served as band director at Clements High in Limestone County from 1978 to 1986.

"He was the kind of teacher you wanted the kids around," Reeves said.

He credited Greenhaw with starting Hartselle's annual band competition fundraiser, which draws marching bands from across the state and Southeast.

"Dexter had an amazing ability to relate with people of all ages," Havens said.

Greenhaw also served as assistant coach of Hartselle High's soccer team when his son was a player.

Even though he could no longer stand on the sideline after doctor's diagnosed him with Lou Gehrig's disease, he continued to come to the games.

After the win over Athens, the team rushed to his car to show their appreciation.

"No matter what happened that day, the boys were going to win that game for Mr. Greenhaw," Galloway said.

To pay tribute to him, the players wore patches on their uniforms that said "Mr. G."

"He was so special and those kids loved him," Galloway said.

Greenhaw, an Athens High and University of North Alabama graduate, is survived by his wife, Cindy Greenhaw of Ath-ens; two sons, Zach Greenhaw of Atlanta, and Ian Greenhaw of Athens; his mother, Edna Greenhaw of Athens; and one brother, John Greenhaw of Athens.

In addition to teaching, he was music director at Friendship United Methodist Church for 17 years and played with the group, Denim, for 25 years.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials be made to Hospice of Limestone County or the Friendship United Meth-odist Church Building Fund.

In the online interview, Greenhaw said the disease made him feel like a prisoner in his own body. His mind was active, but his body unwilling to move. Still, Greenhaw said that when he thought about how Jesus had suffered for mankind, he couldn't be hopeless.

"I don't want my funeral to be depressing," Greenhaw said. "I want it to be a celebration."

He said he wanted "To God Be The Glory" and "The Potter's Hand" played, as well as something band-oriented.

"I want everyone to know what it is like to live through the music," Greenhaw said.

Havens said Greenhaw will be cremated and his ashes spread around an oak tree at the church. Members of one of Limestone County's high school bands may perform at his memorial.

Those who want to view Greenhaw's interview, called "Discovering Hope," can do so online at http://www.friendshipumc.org/.

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