Master storyteller and longtime Aegis outdoors columnist Hayward Putnam dies

Avid outdoorsman and Aegis columnist Hayward Putnam died Wednesday. His column ran more than 40 years.
Avid outdoorsman and Aegis columnist Hayward Putnam died Wednesday. His column ran more than 40 years. (Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Holt, Patuxent Homestead)

Hayward Lee Putnam loved to fish and hunt and, for more than four decades, he shared the joy of those passions with thousands of his fellow Harford County residents and many others.

Mr. Putnam, who wrote the column "Outdoors in Harford County" for The Aegis, died Wednesday after a long illness. He was 75.


Writing in plain, clear language, Mr. Putnam told his readers where the best fishing spots could be found, how to carry a firearm properly in the field and about taking proper care of the land.

His first love was fishing, Mr. Putnam's wife, Marianna Streett Putnam, said Thursday, but he could be happy doing anything, as long as he was outdoors, she added.


It was also clear from his writing that Mr. Putnam valued the personal bonds he formed on the water and in the woods, and those bonds also extended to the readers of his weekly column, long one of the most popular features of The Aegis. Among family and friends and fellow outdoorsmen and women, he was revered as a storyteller of the highest order.

"He was honored to hear from people who read the column," his wife said.

Mr. Putnam especially enjoyed sharing his knowledge of hunting and fishing with young people.

He wrote with pride about taking his daughter hunting and, many years later, when his granddaughter passed her Hunter Safety Course.

His columns served as hunting and fishing guides for several generations coming up, both young men and young women, and his knowledge of Harford's wild places was considered second to none, according to many of his loyal readers.

"A man of many talents, Hayward was a walking-around example of what it meant to love life in his neck of bucolic northern Harford County," said Mac Lloyd, of Churchville, a former sports editor of The Aegis, who shared a long friendship with Mr. Putnam.

"An unpretentious and practical man, he was as well-known throughout Jarrettsville and environs, such as Rocks State Park and Kilgore Falls, and perhaps was more legendary than the mysterious cougar that came wandering through the area 50 years ago," Lloyd wrote Thursday in a brief remembrance of Mr. Putnam.

"There didn't seem to be much that he couldn't do. In addition to crafting his weekly outdoors column, he was a self-taught nature photographer, a singer, songwriter, guitar picker, and square dance caller," Lloyd continued. "He was a skilled hunter and fisherman, who cherished sharing his love of the outdoors with youngsters."

Lloyd also recalled that Mr. Hayward admired Lefty Kreh, the renowned outdoors writer from The Sun, whom he befriended.

"On my too infrequent visits to his home hard by Route 165, Hayward never disappointed as a storyteller," Lloyd wrote. "He was well-versed in Civil War history. He had a soft place in his heart for Confederate Generals Lee, Jackson, Longstreet and A.P. Hill. He would regale me with stories of their exploits and tactics. At times I felt as if I were in his classroom."

On a more personal level, Lloyd said, Mr. Putnam spent countless hours working with him on the Masonic catechism.

"He knew it as if had written it," Lloyd said. "He made sure that I did, too."


"I've often felt as though Hayward would have enjoyed life even more had he been born in the days of frontiersmen, traveling side-by-side with the Crocketts and the Bowies," Lloyd wrote. "That first came to mind one soft summer evening in his back yard where he taught me how to throw a tomahawk. This one-of-a-kind American original will be missed by many."

Todd Holden, of Bel Air, was working as a reporter and photographer at The Aegis in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when Mr. Putnam began writing his column.

"I met him early on and we shared in 'outdoor adventures'," Holden said. "I was not a hunter, nor much of a fisherman, but what we shared was a love of our county and all of its treasures."

Holden also recalled Mr. Putnam's skill as a salesman. Mr. Putnam had worked in sales most of his life, his wife said, after training as a draftsman.

"At one time Hayward was working in our area for a 'first aid kit' company [Zee Medical] and, bingo, in comes Hayward and sells us [Holden's photo studio] this big, wall-mounted metal first aid supply cabinet," Holden said. "His sales pitch was someone could get cut real bad, breaking glass, framing...'Sold!' Then we'd see him every month when he came to replenish the case."

"He was a great person," Holden added. "I never, ever saw him without a story to tell or where to go at that particular time to get the game of the month."

A few weeks before his death, Mr. Putnam told current Aegis Sports Editor Randy McRoberts that he had been writing his column for more than 40 years. He had entered hospice care at that point and was too sick to write, but he wanted to be remembered to his legions of friends and readers of his column.

His last column was published in Dec. 20 edition of The Aegis. He wrote about the year drawing to a close and shared a final greeting with his readers:

"It is Christmas time and we should be thinking of good things and happy times. I wish everyone, regardless of what season or holiday you honor, all the very best."

In addition to his wife, Mr. Putnam is survived by his daughter, Elizabeth Holt, three grandchildren and one great-grandchild. He was predeceased by his son, Edward Lee Putnam.

Funeral services will be held Monday, Jan, 21, at 11 a.m. at Bethel Presbyterian Church in Madonna. A viewing will be held at the church on Sunday, Jan, 20, from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m.

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