One of Gadsden’s finest Southern ladies passed away last Saturday (Dec. 26) at the age of 100.
Until a few months ago, no one could keep up with Hazel Oliver because she stayed extremely active and involved in so many things.
Hazel’s mind was sharp as a tack, and she gave you an answer at a moments notice. She attended the Etowah Historical Society’s Christmas party on Dec. 4, and The Vagabond asked her about the society’s founder, Mary Harrison Lister and how she passed away. Hazel immediately quipped, “Oh, she had a heart problem and died from that.”
Hazel was honored during last year’s Historical Society Christmas party, and The Vagabond decided to play a trick on her that almost backfired. He talked about how much she had accomplished over the years and decided she deserved some big kisses. Before he could hand her a dozen chocolate kisses, Hazel was pointing to the side of her cheek with a big grin. She not only got her chocolates but a kiss, too!
Hazel was a charter member of The Etowah Historical Society, where she served as Secretary-Treasurer for 35 years. The second meeting of the society was held in her home. Throughout its history, Hazel missed very few of the society’s monthly meetings.
Hazel was born in Walsenburg, Colo., on Aug. 11, 1915 to Lawrence and Louise Christopher Pierce. When Hazel was five years old, her mother moved the family back to her ancestral home of Gadsden. Members of the Christopher family were pioneers of Gadsden and played a major role in its founding. Hazel’s great-grandfather William Christopher’s home and farm adjoined the Original Survey of the City of Gadsden. He later sold the house to R.B. Kyle.
Hazel’s grandfather, Abihue Christopher, was a veteran of the Confederate Army who lived until 1935. Hazel grew up hearing the stories her grandfather told of the war, and of her mother’s activities in the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Hazel remained an active member of that organization.
Hazel attended the old Eleventh Street School and graduated from Gadsden High School at the age of 17. She was in the first Gadsden Symphony Orchestra where she was first seat in violin. Hazel was also an avid swimmer and diver. She later attended Gadsden Business College and the Alabama School of Trades, as well as the Gadsden Center of The University of Alabama.
On Christmas Day 1947, Hazel became the bride of Clarence Elwood Oliver, who unfortunately died five years later on July 20, 1952.
Hazel became a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy at the age of 18. Along with her mother and aunt, she was soon involved in many UDC activities, including the placing of the Emma Sansom marker on Black Creek in 1954. Hazel served faithfully in the chapter as president, in the state division, as second vice president and on many committees in that organization.
From 1938 until 1955, Hazel was employed at Ross-Gramling Furniture as a bookkeeper. She also was on the staff of The Gadsden Business College. In 1955 Hazel took a position with The Life Insurance Company of Alabama, where she worked until her retirement.
Hazel was a longtime member of the First United Methodist Church, where she served as a member of the Administrator Board, the Wesleyan Circle, President of United Methodist Women. Staff Parish Relation Committee and lay delegate to the annual conferences. She also taught the Junior Department as a Sunday school teacher to the 12-year old girls for 30 years.
Hazel was a charter member, and past president of Beta Sigma Phi. She also served as treasurer of the Etowah County Fund for Indigent Children.
Hazel was a member and past president of the Gadsden Music Club, an affiliate of the Alabama Federation of Music Clubs and the National Federation of Music Clubs. She was a member of the Northeast Alabama Symphony, where she played violin. Hazel also learned to play the piano at an early age.
The Friends of the Gadsden Public Library was organized in 1960, and Hazel was a charter member and treasurer, as well as doing volunteer work at the library. She also served on the library’s Board of Directors.
In 1962, Hazel was a charter member of the General John H. Forney Historical Society, where she served as treasurer and director. This group has placed many historical markers in the area.
In 2014, The Gadsden City Council proclaimed “Hazel Oliver Day,” presenting her with a proclamation extolling some of her many accomplishments.
In 2015, Hazel was inducted into the 2015 Patriots Hall of Honor, with the organization noting Oliver’s spirit of service to the community.
Hazel Oliver had a vast knowledge of local and area history. A bit of her philosophy was for people to be interested in things other than themselves.
“You need to try and help your community and take part in things, to help make a difference in the world,” she said.