Celebration of a Life Cut Short


The image of his bright eyes and broad smile was what hundreds of friends and relatives recalled Sunday as they gathered for William “Bill” Hagerman’s memorial service.

The upbeat service at the Boy Scouts’ Sea Base celebrated his life--just as the 58-year-old Hagerman would have wanted, his family said.

Hagerman was killed Dec. 28, the day after he and his wife, Patricia, celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary, when his car was broadsided by another vehicle. A passenger in his car, Tan Van Nguyen, 52, of Westminster, also was killed.


Though there were plenty of tears on Sunday, funny stories and laughter filled the room as Latin jazz played in the background.

“Everybody always wants this kind of farewell,” said Steve Bashe, a friend and co-worker who had known Hagerman for two years. “This was not a downer. It was an ‘up’ event.”

Longtime friends of Hagerman from elementary school, high school and college came to the 10 a.m. service, which ended at noon when a few close friends and his family boarded Hagerman’s sailboat to carry his ashes out to sea.

“There was probably a mean bone in that body somewhere, but it didn’t weigh more than a couple of ounces,” sailing buddy Rick Wempe said. “The biggest thing about ‘Hagey’ was that he enjoyed every day when he was here.”

Hagerman, a supervisor at a company that delivers the New York Times, was training Nguyen on the paper route when the accident happened about 2 a.m. in Huntington Beach. Both men were killed instantly.

Authorities arrested Costa Mesa resident Michael Edward Nelson, 31, after he allegedly led California Highway Patrol officers on a 120-mph chase and then crashed into Hagerman’s car. Nelson, a petty officer with the U.S. Coast Guard, has been charged with two counts of murder and one count of felony evading arrest.


Nguyen, who emigrated from Vietnam to Orange County in 1993, was buried Saturday.

About 150 people attended his funeral at Peek Family Colonial Funeral Home; a former South Vietnamese soldier donated a burial plot, his friend Trinh Le said.

A Vietnam War veteran, Nguyen was sent to a re-education camp for more than nine years after the fall of Saigon, Le said.

Before finding work as a newspaper delivery person, Nguyen worked at odd jobs to support his wife, who was found to have cancer three years ago, and his two children, ages 9 and 4.

“He was very sincere,” Le said. “The war disrupted his life, especially in terms of pursuing an education. . . . I’m very saddened. I’m also worried about his wife and two young children.”

At Sunday’s service for Hagerman, the accident that claimed the two men’s lives was not mentioned. Rather, friends and family recalled Hagerman’s favorite pastimes: telling jokes, sailing, listening to jazz.

“I know Bill is up in heaven right now, and he’s got God doubled over, telling jokes to him,” said Roland Underhill, who was a fraternity brother of Hagerman at UCLA in the 1950s. “Bill was one of those guys who, when he walked in, he lit up the whole room.”


Hagerman’s widow, Patricia, said the warmth and thoughtfulness of friends has helped to sustain her in her loss.

“I know Bill will live on in all of you,” she said. “Every single call I got made me feel so good about having shared my life with Bill.”