Rob Hagwood was born and raised in Raleigh, NC where he graduated from Needham B. Broughton High School. He moved to Athens in 2011 for love, and recently went back to school, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Human Services Delivery and Administration with a minor in Gerontology from University of North Georgia. He has been accepted into the Masters in Social Work program at the University of Georgia, which he will start in 2021. Rob plans to work with the aging population working on program and policy development around aging, end of life and death and dying. Rob is the Front of House Manager at Mama’s Boy at The Falls restaurant and volunteers with Athens’ Boybutante AIDS Foundation and Athens Pride, and recently did an internship with the Athens Community Council on Aging’s Meals on Wheels program. He lives on the Westside with his dogs Livvy and Woody.
What inspired you or led you to your current career?
I lost my parents when I was 39. My mother was in hospice care. In going through that process and working with the social worker, one of the realizations I had was that we have a lack of concern for the aging people in the United States. It really just kind of inspired me to make a change in my life. I had done the corporate thing for a really long time at that point, and I just decided that there needed to be something more than the corporate grind everyday. I wanted to get back to people and interacting with people. Since I have always had an affinity for the older generations it was an obvious choice. A lot of the conversations we had when moving my mother to hospice could have been had before, instead of when we were in this moment of grieving with my mother. I just feel we need to have some open dialogue and open conversation about end of life so people can be more comfortable with the idea of transitioning and aging and what that looks like. I am one of the last generations of Baby Boomers. We are getting to retirement age. That segment of the population is going to grow exponentially in the next ten years. In 2030, it is expected to be thirty percent of the population that will be 65 plus. There are going to be a lot of opportunities needless to say. I know it is a little bit kind of sad, but just losing my parents that has given me the idea that life is finite. In your thirties, you think you are a rockstar and can live forever, but the reality of it is that we don’t. I think the sooner we realize that, the better decisions we can make in our lives to live a little better life.
What is your favorite thing to do in Athens when you are not working?
I love to go explore the new parks with my dog. I love being outside and in nature, and so I love to take my dogs and we go to Ben Burton, Fort Yargo, Sandy Creek, Watson Mill, just anywhere we can be outside and go explore. It is what we have to do around here. Because I think we have a lot of great history here, and we need to get out and see it and experience it. I also love to eat. Going out to eat is one of my favorite things to do. I love to try our new restaurants because we have a lot of really great places popping up, and little hole in the wall places, so to speak.
If you could see any band or show, time travel, who would it be and where?
I would love to see Janis Joplin. I loved her music and loved her energy. She was gone way too soon in my opinion. I think if she would have lived she would have had a lot of longevity in her career. If I could see her anywhere, truly one of my favorite venues for the type of show Janis Joplin would have done would have either been the Rialto in Atlanta or The Fox Theatre. The acoustics in both of those places is phenomenal. You can just see how that raspy voice would echo around, and I can just hear it. I think that would have been amazing!
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Stop caring so much about what other people think. Hands down. I grew up worrying so much about what other people thought about me and appearances, and I am realizing as I am getting older it just doesn’t make any difference.
What is your favorite movie, the first movie you remember seeing in a theatre or had an impact on you?
The first movie I really remember seeing was Jaws in 3-D. I think that was the second one. It made me terrified to swim in the ocean. I still don’t particularly love swimming in the ocean. It is a slow process to get out in the water. My favorite movie of all time today is Steel Magnolias. It reminds me of everyone in my family, like my grandmother and my mom, all of my grandmother’s sisters, they were just these tough southern women who could be feminine, but go out and work a field at the same time. Even though I am from North Carolina and not Louisiana, it still has that same kind of feel to me.
If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would you go and why?
Venice, Italy. That is absolutely at the top of my bucket list right now because I think the architecture and history there are breathtaking. We are also on the verge of losing it, because it is just sinking into the ocean, and I feel like the ability to enjoy that is finite at this point and what we have done to the world, but that is a whole other conversation.
If you could put anything on a billboard, what would you put?
Always be kind. Just be nice. Be nice to one another, be nice to the world. Be nice to the environment. All of those things that we too often forget.
What is something interesting about you that most people would not know?
One, I love to cook. I do work front of house in a restaurant, but people do not realize I love being in the kitchen. I love cooking for people. I kind of get that from my family. I am also a runner. I was training to do a marathon last year, and I actually had a little accident and broke my hip so it has been on the backburner for a little while, but I am anxious to get back to it. Also, I have an alter ego. Her name is Jacqueline Daniels. She is kind of larger than life. She is a seven foot tall drag queen that walks into a room and turns heads because she is so tall and grand. She, I think, while I do talk about her in the third person, she is the person that i want to be. She is the person that I wish I had the kahunas to walk into a room and be. She can be seen around town, not much in the past few months, though. Before that though you could see her around a lot doing events for Boybutante and Athens Pride. Pretty much any time anyone would say they needed a drag queen, she would show up. That is kind of a fun one because of the way I look as a man. The transition is pretty stark.
If you could have lunch with anyone dead or alive, who would it be and where?
This is going to sound really cheesy, but I would want to have lunch with my Dad, and we would go to Shorty’s in Wake Forest, North Carolina. Shorty’s is this hot dog joint that my parents went on their very first date in the 1950s. Every time I go home to visit, we have to go to Shorty’s and get a hot dog. We could sit down at one of those tables and solve world hunger as my Dad would say.
What three words or phrases come to mind when you think of the word “home?”
Food, love and fellowship.