Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sandpoint Mourns the Loss of Hazel Hall

Two weeks before her death, 96-year-old Hazel Hall had lunch with her friends at the home of Jim and Mary Walter. There, she laughed and celebrated in the hot summer sun. It was the last time the close-knit group was together and a memory that those who survive Hall will hold closely in their hearts.

“Her mantra was ‘attitude and gratitude,’ ” said friend Sue Brooks. “She thanked God every day for her family and friends and health. She was a woman of deep faith.”

Hall was preceded in death by her husband, Ross Hall, in 1990. He was a nationally known photographer, and together they ran the Ross Hall Studio in Sandpoint, which at one time employed nearly 100 people.

Hall proudly shared that she ran the couple’s studio on her own while Ross was stationed at Farragut during the war.

“I was the only photographer in the county for a while,” said Hall in May.

Hall did much to contribute to the community she called home since 1932. Raising three children, Hall was an important part of their activities, including Campfire and Scouting. She also worked with several community organizations, including a civic club that helped build trails and plant flowers; assisted in the Little Theater; and was an instrumental part in the start-up of what is now Pend Oreille Arts Council.

Recognizing her contributions to the community, the mayor of Sandpoint declared Hazel Hall Day on her 95th birthday last year.

As part of that celebration, people donated time and money to create something memorable in Hall’s honor. After a year of planning, a Children’s Garden, located at Bonner General Hospital’s Healing Garden, was dedicated in May of this year.

Although healthy and engaging up until the end, Hall had said she was ready to begin the next phase of her journey.

“She told me in May that she would be ready (to die) in August, after all her grandkids were here for a visit in July,” said Hall’s friend Barb Perusse, who shared Hall’s birthday.

Barbara Merritt said Hall told her at the luncheon that she had seen her late husband’s face a lot lately.

“Maybe that is a sign,” Hall told Merritt.

As her friends gathered last weekend and reminisced, they all had special memories.

“I love the way she always pounded her fist on the table if she wanted to make a point,” said Jim Walter.

When she greeted her friends she would put her hands on their face and look caringly into their eyes. “It was as if she was trying to memorize your face,” said Sherri O’Brien.

“Hazel always had a clever limerick for every occasion,” said Sue Brooks. “Often she made one up right on the spot.”

Brooks and her friend Marsha Ogilvie took turns making sure that Hall always had fresh flowers.

“Every time one of us went to her place with the flowers she always lit up with delight and clapped her hands together and said ‘Oh boy! How did you know? I was just about to throw the old ones out.’ And then she would giggle,” said Brooks. “It was the same thing every time. We loved it.”

Many in Sandpoint are mourning her loss and celebrating her incredible life. They say they were privileged to know such a wonderful woman.

“If we are lucky, someone comes along and touches our heart forever,” said Brooks. “I will treasure every moment I had with her and I am incredibly blessed that she was my friend.”

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