Hazel Heisey

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Biographical Stories of Women in the Bridgewater Church of the Brethren —

A child of the Depression, Hazel Heisey was in part shaped by this time period. Nothing went to waste. Even the dregs of the garden would find their way into some food product, often canned or frozen. When Hazel canned tomatoes, her son, Curtis, remembers, the different parts and by-products of the process would find their ways into five tomato products – sauce, ketchup, whole, crushed, and finally juice.  Crinkled pieces of aluminum foil were often found in a pile beside the counter. Each piece had been rinsed and reused time and time again. Hazel, like so many others of her generation, practiced re-cycling before the term was even invented. She grew up in the Depression on a farm in Iowa, and though she didn’t often talk about this aspect of her childhood, there were times of scarcity, and those habits of not wasting anything were ingrained at a young age.

Hazel Heisey at her 90th Birthday Party
Hazel Heisey at her 90th Birthday Party

Hazel earned her Bachelor’s degree in Home Economics from Iowa State University and took course work towards a Master’s degree at Purdue University. She attended her first two college years at Manchester College in Indiana. This background led her to maintain an efficiency in kitchen operation for which she was well known. This was a fundamental axiom of existence that was just a slight notch down from church work.

Church work has been a major part of Hazel’s life during her years at Bridgewater.   She served key roles in music and children’s work over a long period; many now-middle aged adults remember Mrs. Heisey as their choir director, Sunday School teacher or Bible School leader, where her mild manner and sweet demeanor managed large groups of children with ease.  She taught 15 years in the nursery department, and 10 years in the elementary department and served as director of the Christian Education Commission. She could guide young folks with her easy manner; this was remembered by her children, one of whom remarked, “Once in grade school, and being in the ketchup phase of life, I remember swamping those fresh green beans with ketchup. My Mom made a remark about not being able to enjoy the freshness. I think that was the most I was ever chided by my Mom.”  In addition to her children’s work, Hazel served on the Women’s Fellowship Cabinet and Homebuilders Circle and provided leadership on the committee planning the remodeling of the kitchen in the College Street church.

Working as CE Director and Sunday School teacher allowed her to combine several traits for which she was known.  She saved egg cartons and cottage cheese cartons, saying, “These will be useful for craft projects some time”. There were several floor-to-ceiling piles in her basement, and from time to time, they would later resurface as the key pieces in Vacation Bible School or Sunday School projects.

In addition to choir directing, she had other musical activities that were long dear to her.  She played the autoharp and the recorder, and participated for many years in a recorder group which performed for numerous special occasions.

Hazel Heisey with her Camp Brethren Woods walking stick

She was a key leader and volunteer at Camp Brethren Woods and was on the Board of Directors for many years. She had a major part in designing the original lodge still in use and worked many years at the Spring Festival. She had a walking stick and each year would use a wood burner to burn the year of her volunteer weeks into the stick. Many years later, she would show her grandchildren that stick, saying  “These were the years I was Counselor.” Then she would turn it over, and share “these were the years that I was camp director.”

She loved the outdoors and nature. She was an avid bird watcher and gardener.  When Hazel was not able to garden so much in older age, her flowers went on autopilot. There was a beautiful spread of flowers that took up the whole garden. People would remark, “Oh you have such a lovely garden.” Hazel would reply with a chuckle, “Oh I work so hard on it.” Her children remember that their mom has a wonderful sense of humor, which always shines. At times, Japanese beetles were a severe problem, which caused the demise of garden roses and other flowers. Hazel spent her evenings after supper in her flower garden, hand picking all the Japanese beetles she could see. Part of the appeal was just being outside; her garden showed it, even after her knees made gardening painful for her.

One service and sharing activity for which Hazel and Lowell were well-known was their hosting of foreign students from Bridgewater College, many of whom had no place to go during holidays when most students went home.  In addition, they hosted foreign travelers through who came to them via a travel directory.  This was a means of exchange with various cultures that was valued by the Heiseys, and certainly by their guests! Some of these re-visited the Heiseys years later, including some women from Japan who returned with their children, and a Canadian couple who visited again with their son in a Winnebego.

Hazel’s contributions to life in Bridgewater and to the Bridgewater Church of the Brethren were characterized by nurturing, creativity, and humor; for these she will be remembered.

These memories were shared by Hazel’s children, on the occasion of her 90th birthday, edited and compiled by Lori Lineweaver, as an addendum to the earlier entry to “She Will Be Remembered” first published many years ago.