Dan Honeycutt touched the lives of so many and his recent death has resulted in many recalling the impact that Dan played in their lives.
Tommy Coats was a former student of Dan’s at Coats High School and he shared the following tribute with me at the Coats Museum. I asked Teresa, Dan’s wife, to read the tribute and she said she has heard this type of story many times since he died.
Having spent the last 15-plus years researching and writing about the history and the individuals who impacted Coats and its surrounding areas, I can assure you if some future researcher writes a column on Coats history, the name Dan Honeycutt will appear in it as one of Coats’ most memorable and respected individuals.
Here is Tommy Coats’ tribute to Dan Honeycutt:
‘Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt
to offer a solution
I want to thank a man for being a great positive example for all who knew him.
A few weeks ago our community lost one of the greatest men we have ever produced. This man did not achieve world fame ... he chose to stay close to home. I believe he may have gotten that from his dad. He was a farm boy who sort of left the farm only to return later in life. He was not without his share of let’s say events during his developmental years. There were a few road races/close calls during the teen years. As I understand, some very close calls.
But somewhere during his last two years at N.C. State University, something clicked. He realized that it was time to get serious and get the grades up. And he did. A teaching degree and a job at Coats High School under Principal J.C. Hawley soon became a reality. I know he loved teaching and helping students. He would spend his summers away at Ag Camp with us kids (some of us kids were not considered the sharpest tools in the shed), but he worked with what he had.
Enough of the mystery ... I’m writing about Dan Honeycutt. I just want to say a few good things about Dan from my perceptive. I want people to know he was a really good guy. I honestly can say I have never heard anything bad said about this man. How many of us can say that about ourselves.
One quick story: Dan’s Coats High horticulture class was down in the greenhouse one morning doing our normal activities ... playing Rook. As best as I can remember, there were three games going on.
Dan, being a great leader, had taught us to always post a lookout. Well, this day it paid off because as luck would have it ... Dan, J.C. Hawley and the county superintendent (R.A. Gray) were inbound to the greenhouse to check out our work. The person in charge gave the signal and it was on. Buckets that were being used as tables and chairs were immediately turned back into agricultural implements, potting soil was flying and vermiculite filled the air.
Just as the door opened, Dan stepped in first ... I believe it would be hard, if not impossible, to accurately describe the expression on Dan’s face to see 20 high school students actively practicing the art of growing some of the prettiest carnations anywhere.
Dan would also take us guys up to Tom Brown Ag Camp in the mountains. At that point in history, the camp’s hot water heater had not yet been invented. The showers would take your breath away. Dan would wash his hair and immediately put on a toboggan. It seems Dan had an issue with his curly hair.
While lying in our camp shelters at night, listening to the coon dogs hunting in those mountains till early hours of the morning is something I will always remember. Dan would instruct us not to wander away from camp because the moonshiners would definitely shoot us if we discovered their stills ... we were 15 years old so we believed it ... anyway he never lost a camper.
I have to mention the White Grand Prix with built-in eight-track tape player and the guy in Dunn who would bootleg any 20 songs you wanted on a tape for $5. Those were great times.
While thinking about Dunn, we cannot forget about the VI (Village Inn). Dan was the foosball champ. He could put that ball by you so fast, the only way you knew he had shot was the sound made when the ball hit the back of the hole with a loud “he got me again” sound. He could play all night with one quarter. Dan was an example to us guys in that you treated your adversaries with respect after you skunked them.
I kind of lost contact with Dan for several years and the next thing I knew was that he was principal at Triton. He did a great job of setting an example for his students. Dan would always dress for success; he always had his suit on. The students looked up to the “Tall Man” in more than one way.
Dan was a leader. He was quiet, fair and even handed.
“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they
will say: We did it
We will never know all the people Dan helped in his 68 years. When I was laid off after 15 years in the corporate world, I returned to teaching. Dan and Mr. Leonard Arnold gave me a job so fast that Harnett County Schools HR called me in two months, after I was back in the classroom, to fill out a job application. It seems things happened so fast that the little detail of filling out an application was overlooked.
Dan helped many people we will never know about. I did not want that to happen in my case.
Just cannot say enough good things about this guy, but I did want people to know Dan helped me a lot. Unfortunately, I never told him. Dan. you will be greatly missed.
“Your character is not how you conduct yourself in public, it is how you conduct yourself when no one is around.”