La Jolla Centenarians: Hazel Hart’s life journey moves from desert ranch to seaside shores
Editor’s Note: As part of La Jolla Light’s 100th publishing anniversary this year, we are featuring interviews with fellow centenarians throughout 2013. If you know a La Jollan who is 100 years old, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (858) 875-5950.
By Ashley Mackin
Despite her claims that she is not “socially minded,” 100-year-old Hazel Hart is well known throughout her Muirlands neighborhood for her daily walks around the block and her sharp sense of humor.
For example, when told the La Jolla Light was celebrating its centennial this year, Hart, who celebrated her 100th birthday on Feb. 6, said, “We should go get drunk together.” That’s an odd comment coming from someone who doesn’t drink alcohol!
Hazel said her first and only drink was taken more than 70 years ago, when her then-husband offered her a taste of what he was having.
“I tasted his drink and I thought, ‘ye god! that is the worst tasting stuff,’ so I never had another taste in my life.”
That was on the Lovington, New Mexico, ranch where she was born and raised, and where she worked with her husband. Hazel was married for about 20 years and had one daughter, Zan.
After her divorce, the death of her mother (her father died when she was a child), and after Zan went off to college, Hart and her sister, Ruth, planned to move. They headed west to get away from the dust storms of the ranch.
The duo decided to stay for one night in each town where they stopped. They stayed in Phoenix, where Hart said the heat “nearly killed me.” Then they found themselves in Los Angeles, where “the people were rude,” so they moved on.
By the time they got to La Jolla, one night turned into a few, and a few nights turned into looking for a home. That was nearly 50 years ago. “I like everything in La Jolla, the atmosphere is just wonderful,” Hazel said.
Committing to living the rest of their lives in La Jolla, Hazel and Ruth bought their home three years into renting it, and purchased crypts at the El Camino Memorial Cemetery. Hazel joked that they wanted a spot “with a nice view.”
Ruth died in 2006 and is in her crypt, but “mine is still out there waiting for me,” Hazel laughed.
Living on her own, she said, is not difficult for her because “being brought up on a cattle ranch, you learn to depend on yourself … that has gone with me through my life; anything that came along, I just dealt with it. It has enabled me to live and take care of myself.”
On any given day, Hazel said she will watch the news in the morning and at night, walk around the block, take care of any bills or paperwork due, cook her own food and maybe make a loaf of bread. She has occasionally taken bread to her neighbors or nearby Fire Station 13 on Nautilus Street.
She said she enjoys her walks around the block because people always wave and say hello (but remember, she isn’t socially minded).
While nice neighbors have always been a La Jolla staple, Hazel said the community she loves has changed over the years. “La Jolla has become a self- supporting place where working people live. At the time we moved here, there were not any working people. It was a wealthy town and people lived here for enjoyment.”
It was with an open mind that Hart watched La Jolla develop. She maintains that having an open mind and being self-reliant are the most important things in life.
“Any time you deal with people, deal with them openly and don’t use them,” she advised. These values became that much more real to her after the loss of her sister.
“When Ruth died, she left many pleasant memories with me, and all the kids have pleasant memories of her. That’s a wonderful thing to leave, gentleness and helpfulness, and everything like that — that she did leave,” Hazel said. After a seemingly dramatic pause, she added, “Of course, I’m not going to leave quite that good.”
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