In tribute: Former ENMU art professor loved learning

Argen Duncan

Relatives of artist and retired professor Dale Hamlett remember him as a lover of learning, art and family.

Dale Hamlett, 89, died Monday. He was a distinguished professor emeritus in fine arts from Eastern New Mexico University, where he taught for 18 years until his retirement in 1987.

Dale grew up on a farm in Missouri. He met Mozelle, his wife of almost 65 years, when they were attending college in Kirksville, Mo.

“And really we met at church,” Mozelle said. “I was in the choir, and my husband was in the congregation, and we fell for each other.”

They each took note of the other from their places, and one day, Dale asked to walk Mozelle home. They married in 1946.

“I couldn’t have asked for a more loving, dedicated, wonderful father for our children,” Mozelle said.

The couple has three daughters: Sharon Mullen, Gena Cacy and Brenda Kilmer. Kilmer said her parents were always best friends.

Gena recalled family vacations involving art galleries and museums rather than amusement parks.

Brenda remembers seeing Dale’s work as a child, when he designed billboard advertisements in Albuquerque and did the illustrations and lettering by hand.

“And I was so impressed that I knew at a very young age I wanted to do what he did,” she said.

Brenda and her husband, Richard, have operated an advertising agency in Albuquerque for 23 years. Mullen has also studied art, and Cacy is a photographer.

Brenda’s son, Grayson, an art student in Vancouver, Canada, is the fourth generation in the family to pursue art, since Dale’s mother was an artist, Kilmer said.

Also, Dale enjoyed his great-granddaughter, Lauren, 9 months.

“He looked 20 years younger just holding that little girl,” said Bryce Mullen, Dale’s grandson and Lauren’s father.

When Bryce was growing up, he said, Dale told stories about his own childhood and gave his grandsons art lessons.

Mozelle said her husband loved art even as a child.

Dale studied art at the college level, including a master’s at the University of New Mexico. He worked as a commercial artist before entering academia, first at New Mexico Tech in Socorro and then at ENMU.

Sharon said her father made painting seem effortless.

“He would start out with this white piece of paper, and then suddenly there would be this beautiful picture, in no time at all,” she said.

Dale favored water color. He and his wife traveled widely so he could paint landscapes on site.

As a teacher, Mozelle said, her husband wanted his students to learn about different aspects of art before deciding what they wanted to pursue. Both Sharon and Brenda took classes from him.

“If you didn’t want to work hard and do your best, forget it,” Sharon said.

She said she learned a lot from Dale.

“I think the thing that influenced me the most was that he always wanted to learn,” Sharon said, adding her father continued his quest for information even in the hospital.

Dale was also excited about good music, gardening, birds and working on old cars. Mozelle said he would take his walker outside, get on the ground and do yard work.