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Fort Worth developer, philanthropist faces grim news with grace and happiness

"I made a decision a long time ago, if I ever got something like this...I wanted to spend that time continuing to do the things I'd done."

FORT WORTH, Texas — If you’re looking for Happy Baggett on any given day, you’ll likely find him holding court at the head of a table, people hanging on his every word.

“If you can’t hear me, I'm sorry,” Baggett said last month during a lunch meeting at non-profit Child Care Associates.  “You guys are more valuable than money. So I want to sing to the back row to you to tell you thank you.”

You see, Happy isn’t just his name; it is who he is and who he’ll always be, for however long he has left.

“Well,” he said, leveling with us, “I have stage 4 colon and liver cancer that went through me in about six weeks.”

Sitting at a table where he’s known to hold his famed happy hours at his favorite downtown restaurant, Grace, the well-known Fort Worth real estate developer and philanthropist told us: his days are numbered.

“Anybody you want to see, anything you want to do, you need to do ASAP,” he said the doctor told him. “I made a decision a long time ago, If I ever got something like this, I wasn't going to do anything. I wanted to spend that time continuing to do the things I'd done. enjoy my friends, my family, my life.”

Scroll through his Facebook page and you’ll see Happy is staying true to his word. Daily dispatches show speeches at Rotary Club, hugs with friends, even walking the runway at charity events.

People are sharing in Hap’s joy and his humor instead of sadness.

“Happy Baggett. How do you describe someone like Happy Baggett?” said Kara Waddell, who runs Child Care Associates. She smiled as she said it.

Her organization was looking for a chair for its annual fundraiser. She asked Happy, nobody knowing at that point he had terminal cancer, besides him. Of course, he said yes.

“I needed something to do, I was dying!” he joked.

He is now spearheading a fundraiser, with months or weeks to live, he said.

“Any of us if we're facing a challenge thinks you want to conserve your energy and time and focus on the things that are important—but that's what he's doing,” Waddell said.

Long-time friend, restaurateur Adam Jones, said Hap’s energy is waning, but you’d never know with the schedule he keeps. He’s not surprised by the way he’s handling the diagnosis.

“Not one bit. Just the way I think he would have,” Jones said.

“I'm going out in my boots,” Happy said. "I ain't dying in no damn bed.”

With his family’s help, he’ll leave behind a $12 million fund in his name with Child Care Associates. The organization will soon put his name on one of their buildings, which looks out on the city he loves so dearly.

His real estate developments, his philanthropy and even a park named after him in south Fort Worth, “Happy Park,” are reminders that what we do in life lives on.

“You know, one thing people are saying, ‘Boy, Happy, you're giving us a goal for dying,’” he said. “No I'm not. I'm giving you a pattern for living. I’m not showing people how to die, I’m showing people how to live.”

He’s leaving it all on the table.

“While I have something to give, I'm going to try and give it,” he said. “Take what you've got, deal with it, go do something good.”

Teaching us all what it truly means to be Happy.

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