Billy Hadaway, 70, artist, jeweler, `engaging character'

March 10, 2000|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Billy Hadaway, a free-spirited artist who made stylish jewelry, died March 3 of an apparent heart attack at his Mount Vernon apartment. He was 70.

Friends described him as a pixie -- a short man with a full head of gray hair who wore wool sweaters even in Baltimore's summers.

"He was a engaging character right out of a Flannery O'Connor novel -- very Southern and gay. His heyday in jewelry making was in the 1960s. He made my wedding band," said Charles Street picture framer James R. Pierce.

Friends recalled a story Mr. Hadaway liked to tell on himself -- that Tiffany & Co. tried to recruit him as a jewelry designer. He turned it down.

"He was anything but a nine-to-fiver," Mr. Pierce said. "There was no way you could tame Billy to work in any kind of confines."

He was often seen walking -- he didn't own a car -- with his black schipperke dog, Dr. Seabrooks, named after a veterinarian.

"He was absolutely brilliant," said Orem Wahl, a friend who lives on Calvert Street. "The society ladies would bring him gems to set. There were loose stones all around his studio."

Born William Medford Hadaway in Chestertown, he was a 1951 graduate of the Maryland Institute, College of Art. He also attended Black Mountain College in North Carolina and studied under painter Joseph Albers and his wife, Anni Albers, a weaver. He also took classes from futurist architect Buckminster Fuller.

In the 1950s, Mr. Hadaway set up a jewelry-making studio in Lovegrove Alley. There he entertained a couple who became his longtime friends, the jazz duo Jackie Cain and Roy Kral, who were then performing at a Hotel Belvedere cabaret.

"He had a magnificent eye for design. We fell in love with the jewelry he made," said Jackie Cain, who lives in Montclair, N.J.

"His pieces were beautifully designed. There was nothing superfluous on Billy Hadaway jewelry."

Friends said that Mr. Hadaway did not have a mind for business. The Internal Revenue Service confiscated his precious metals and equipment about 30 years ago. He told friends that when the agents entered his studio, he'd nailed the chairs to the ceiling so they couldn't sit down.

"After that experience, he remained very artistic but he never regained his spirit," Jackie Cain said.

In 1978, when one of Mr. Hadaway's small sculptures, called "War," and a painting by James Voshell were thrown out of an art show at the Morris Mechanic Theatre, 33 artists withdrew their works in support.

A memorial will be held at 5 p.m. March 19 at the Whistling Oyster, on Broadway near Thames Street.

Mr. Hadaway is survived by cousins.

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