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Donald Haack dies at age 78

March 03, 2009

  • date
    March 03, 2009
  • article type
    Press
  • category
    Opera Carolina News

Donald Haack dies at age 78

Donald Haack, a diamond merchant in Charlotte, presented "The Insider Story of Diamonds" last week at the Florence Soule Shanklin Memorial Library in Denver.

Shock and sadness spread through Charlotte's business and philanthropic circles as the news of Donald Haack's death Sunday became known.

Haack, 78, founder and owner of Donald Haack Diamonds & Fine Gems, died after a brief illness. He was a respected businessman and, with his wife, Janet, among Charlotte's most respected philanthropists. An accomplished author, he wrote three books about his adventures in the diamond business: “Bush-Pilot in Diamond Country,” “Diamond Safari,” and his most recent, “Diamonds 'neath My Wings.”

Haack and his wife were such a team – they had been married for 54 years – that when people spoke of his death, it was almost impossible for them not to mention Janet.

“The Haacks are really representative of good community members,” said James Meena, Opera Carolina's general director. “They not only cared about a lot of different organizations and causes, but they were willing to invest themselves personally in the life of those organizations. He was someone who had accomplished so much in his life, and had been so successful, yet I always found him to be the most approachable and genuine person.”

During a birthday party on Sunday at the home of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra's concertmaster Calin Lupanu and his wife, Monica Boboc, symphony musicians fondly recalled their good friend when they heard the news, said guest Wilton Connor.

“They said a prayer for him and his family, and shared stories of how much he meant to them as a person.”

The Haacks attended a small concert at the home of Connor and his wife, Catherine, on Feb. 23. It was a gathering to hear a rehearsal by the Charlotte Symphony's principal cellist Alan Black, and the Haacks were excited to attend.

“Don responded with a note telling me how much he enjoys Alan's music, and how much he wanted to come,” said Connor.

During the gathering, the Connors' curtains caught on fire. Wilton marveled at Haack's calm reaction.

“He suggested the musicians might want to move their instruments from the house. And as we're all standing outside and the fire trucks pull up, he suggested to the waitress that she serve everyone wine.”

Haack belonged to a group of men who meet the first Wednesday of the month just to talk. When they gather Wednesday, the group will leave a place for their friend. And on Thursday, during Haack's 2 p.m. memorial service at Carmel Baptist Church, Alan Black will play the cello. He is survived by his wife, Janet; daughters Diana Haack Smith and Julie Haack, both of Charlotte; and sons Thomas Scott Haack of Charlotte and Todd Lawrence Haack of San Rafael, California.

By Olivia Fortson
ofortson@charlotteobserver.com