At 100 years old, Hazel Bauer says of herself: “As a youngster, I always felt homely and inferior, except when I played ball…. I finally learned in life [that] no one can make you feel inferior without your consent. Think about that.”
Always the wise teacher and with that lesson learned Bauer quit thinking of herself and turned her thoughts to others, citing Eleanor Roosevelt as her great role model.
Bauer came by way of Kansas, Michigan and Nebraska to Seattle. A few months after Magnolia’s low-income senior housing residence Pleasant Valley Plaza opened in 1979, she moved in. She has lived there since and resided over the Resident Council for nearly 37 years.
She served for many years as a member of the Senior Advocacy Council for residents of the Seattle Housing Authority (SHA).
That first year she had a terrible time with the weather change: “I was frozen right through to the gizzards,” she said.
But she acclimated, and Seattle became her home and Magnolia the neighborhood she loves.
A great start
Marilla Hazel Honeywell was a small-town girl whose father loved the horses and owned a horse ranch on the western prairie. She said her parents gave her a great start in life, “way back in the horse-and-buggy era.”
She is the oldest of seven children, with her youngest sibling, Alice Marie Praast, 20 years younger. They are the only two surviving members of the loving and supportive family she remembers with great fondness.
“So, genes don’t seem to have anything to do with this,” she said, shaking her head at the birthday party in her honor. She shrugged her shoulders and smiled.
She married Henry Bauer and had children Rita Bauer (Patajesak) and Roger Bauer. She now enjoys her six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Her husband’s struggle with alcoholism finally brought her to the stark and unhappy realization she would need to be on her own for her children’s sake. In 1955, she divorced and took on the role of being a single mother.
Work with medical insurance for Mutual of Omaha became her career. When she moved to Seattle, she did underwriting and actuarial work for National Public Service Life in life insurance.
She said she watched the city build the World’s Fair from her work window at Fourth Avenue and Blanchard Street. Today, she still sits by her window enjoying life, waving to neighbors, “watching the people who walk their dogs and the dogs who walk their people…. I know them all.”
Sandra Bullis, the wife of Pleasant Valley Plaza resident manager of Robert Bullis, said of Bauer, “She is just such an amazing woman. An inspiration to the many who have come and gone in this building for the over-30 years she has been here. Always doing for others — she shares and gives to everyone. We are all touched by Hazel — her spirit, spirituality and her special love of and doing for people.”
Bullis threw the first of two special birthday parties for Bauer, who celebrated her 100th birthday on Feb. 20. Her first party was with the residents of her building and SHA personnel. More than 50 family and friends celebrated a second, catered affair at the building.
Bauer is sharp, humorous, honest, authentic, full of practical advice and compassion. A 10-minute conversation with her reveals it all, as she cites advances in medicine and communication as the markers of her ever-changing century.
“I have had a wonderful life…good times and bad,” she said to those gathered for her first party. “I probably learned my best lessons from the times that were not the best.”
An ordained minister in the Community of Christ Church, Bauer has been a pastor, taught Sunday school classes, participated in church camp, took special training to work with at-risk kids in the schools and volunteered at Blaine K-8 School in its at-risk tutoring program.
Looking back and ahead
Bauer, at the urging of her youngest sister, wrote a 226-page history of her family, full of photos, genealogy, history, her life stories and her life lessons.
In a little note taped to the front page, she humbly writes of her work, “I am sharing this with you, realizing that there will be errors, lack of writing style and good grammar. I wanted to share my life story with my family. The only way I would get it done would be to use the free-writing method…just write as it flowed.”
She ended her memoir, which details 90 years of her life, with this quote: “There is more light and truth to be seen and understood. However convinced we are about our present views, they are bound to change. If they are in error, we must be willing to replace them with new insights. If they are sound, we may still find them to be course and crude and inadequate. They must be refined and expanded continually as we grow intellectually and emotionally.”
For Bauer, life is a lesson to be lived. She will relax after all the celebrating with bunches of bouquets and mounds of birthday cards, taking time out to watch wisely from her window, not content to let life pass her by.
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