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Wednesday, November 10, 1993 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Tracia Hagy Clowned To Reach Children

It takes a certain ebullience to want to be a clown, and Tracia Brook Hagy had it: she did what she wanted regardless of what anyone else thought and she usually had a rollicking good time in the process.

So off she went to clown school. And not just any clown school, but the best: The Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Clown College in Sarasota, Fla.

There she learned how to put on a rubber nose and make people laugh. Her performing skills came in handy through many years of acting in community theaters. But mostly it became a natural way to reach children - her deepest passion. As a teacher of gifted children, the rubber nose and mop hair was an instant ice-breaker for the shyest and most reserved students.

She wanted most to teach children how to enjoy each moment. Celebrate Life! was how she signed cards and letters. Friends and relatives say she lived those words up until her very last breath. Saturday, Mrs. Hagy died at age 33 in her Redmond home after a 10-month bout with Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, a type of brain infection.

"She had an incredible amount of enthusiasm and energy for everything," said her husband, Daniel Hagy. "It seemed like she knew her time was short and that she had to squeeze in so much living in that short time."

Mrs. Hagy was born in Hawaii, where she spent her first six years. She graduated from Portland State University with a degree in education. She was working on a master's degree at Seattle Pacific University when she died.

She had taught in elementary schools in Portland and the Puget Sound area since 1983. She had been working at The Open Window School in Bellevue, a private school for gifted children, for several years when she was diagnosed with the disease in February.

Students and fellow teachers were crushed by the news. "In her short years here, she lived every day to the fullest," said Denise Primeau, a teacher. "Her joy was giving children the opportunity to know life the way she knew it."

No one knew for sure why Mrs. Hagy had such zest for living - maybe she was just born with it. But some family members speculate it might have been linked to a medical trauma she experienced at age 15.

Doctors found a tumor in her brain, tried to remove it surgically, failed, and eventually eradicated it with radiation. The tumor had affected the part of her brain that controls growth, her husband said. At age 15, Mrs. Hagy was only 4-feet-6. Eventually, the use of growth hormone boosted her height to just barely five feet.

Family members said her stature did not stop her from leading a whirlwind life. She conducted workshops on clowning, performed in television commercials and stage plays, volunteered with handicapped children, and took part in activist groups such as Ploughshares and Greenpeace. In fact, Mrs. Hagy used her height to her advantage, especially with children.

"She was so small and so enthusiastic, children had a hard time not relating to her," Mr. Hagy said.

Besides her husband, surviving are her father, Bo Newman of Portland, mother Patti Murphy of Spokane, a sister, Teri Newman, and brother Brad Newman of London.

A celebration of Mrs. Hagy's life will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at Pine Lake Covenant Church, 1715 228th Ave. S.E., Issaquah. Remembrances may be made to the Tracia Hagy Creative Arts Memorial Fund at The Open Window School, 5225 119th Ave. S.E., Bellevue, WA 98006.

Copyright (c) 1993 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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