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Forest Park mourns, honors longtime resident

Leonard Hartsfield Sr. loved baseball, as evidenced by his attire.

Leonard Hartsfield Sr. loved baseball, as evidenced by his attire.

By Kathy Jefcoats

kjefcoats@news-daily.com

FOREST PARK — Leonard Hartsfield loved people.

The 80-year-old businessman, community volunteer and sports enthusiast died March 21 and was buried a week later with honors from the city to which he had devoted his life. His wife of 59 years, Mattie Middlebrooks Hartsfield, said she is happy to see him recognized for his life's work.

"I'm glad to see it being done," she said. "I think it's great and he deserves it."

Hartsfield said her husband stayed involved because he loved people. He was born in 1932 in Henry County but did his growing up, falling in love and raising a family of eight kids for more than 70 years in Forest Park.

"He worked hard in his community because he loved people, that's all," she said. "We believed in feeding the hungry, we'd let people stay with us who didn't have anywhere to go, we helped kids who needed our help. He just loved people."

He also loved to tell stories and was widely known for monopolizing a conversation.

"He could go back and tell stories from when he was 5," said Hartsfield. "He loved to talk. People would tell each other, 'He's not going to let you talk, he's going to tell you everything you need to know.'"

Mayor Pro Tem Linda Lord and Councilwoman Latresa Akins presented the family with a proclamation declaring March 28 "Leonard Hartsfield Sr. Day" in Forest Park. The document takes note of Hartsfield's position in the business community. He was a master barber who wielded scissors and a comb at his own shop. He was also a skilled carpenter who constructed wood at his cabinet shop. He had a third job at International Paper Co.

"He was a family man who worked three jobs to take care of us," said Hartsfield. "And when he retired, he got involved in his kids' and grandkids' lives. If someone needed a ride home from school, he'd go. Whatever they needed."

His son, Leonard Jr., runs the cabinet shop now, she said, carrying on his dad's legacy.

That legacy also included a love of baseball. The proclamation mentions his "strong love and compassion for the game of baseball." Hartsfield Sr. sponsored and managed the Forest Park Braves and participated in the Hank Aaron Amateur League. It is that involvement that has at least one other Forest Park resident calling for something to be named for Hartsfield. Virginia Ford asked about the possibility of naming a ball field in his honor at the April 1 Council meeting.

"He was so involved in sports, that was his area," said Ford. "Why not have his name on a ball field? I think the whole city would like it and he deserves it. Put his name where it belongs."

Elaine Corley, Forest Park's director of recreation and leisure services, said there may be a venue that could be dedicated to and named for Hartsfield. Corley told Ford she would look into it.

"I think that would be great because he did so much for Forest Park," Ford said.

Mattie Hartsfield was thrilled to hear the idea.

"Oh, that's just great," she said. "I think he'd really like that."

It sure would have given him a story to tell.