Press-Republican

June 17, 2013

Port Henry woman turns 100

BY LOHR McKINSTRY Press-Republican
Press-Republican

---- — TICONDEROGA — Hazel Straight says she never expected to live to be 100 years old — and never wanted to.

But her family just threw a party marking her 100th birthday at Heritage Commons nursing home.

“We celebrated around the table — my daughter, Nancy, and my friends. The party was nice.”

HISTORIC TIMES

Hazel, who was born June 11, 1913, can remember the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam.

“I lived many, many years in Port Henry, most of my life,” she said during an interview at the nursing home in Ticonderoga.

“I went to school in Richford, Vt., then I moved to New York and got married.”

Looking back over the years, one of the things she remembers disliking is that she needed to clip a rationing coupon to buy meat during World War II.

If you didn’t have the coupon when you went to the store, you didn’t get the meat, she said.

RECUPERATING

Hazel said she’s only at Heritage Commons for a little while, recovering from pneumonia, then will be returning to her apartment at Lord Howe Estates, an assisted-living complex nearby, where she has lived for 18 years.

“I was in the hospital first. I like it here, but I want to go home, back to my apartment,” she said. “I can’t wait to get back.”

Her daughter, Nancy Sheldon, lives in Port Henry and visits her several times a week.

“We’ll have a bigger party when she gets back in her apartment,” Nancy said. “All her daughters will be there.”

Hazel has three daughters still living: Nancy, Cheryl and Beverly. Cheryl lives in Oswego, and Beverly in Millerton.

One daughter, Jean, died in an automobile accident in 1985.

Nancy said she and her mother often go out for lunch.

“She tells people how old she is, and they can’t believe it. She drove until she was 93. She’s kind of amazing.”

‘A LOT OF BUMPS’

Hazel went to New Hampshire after graduating from school, and she worked in a photography studio.

She later moved to Elizabethtown, where she met her first husband, Leo Cole, and they had two daughters, Jean and Beverly.

Leo died in a hunting accident at age 29, and Hazel later met Charles Straight, who became her second husband.

They moved to a home on Prospect Avenue in Port Henry, where they had two daughters, Nancy and Cheryl.

Charles worked as a miner in Republic Steel’s iron mines in Moriah, and they raised the four girls.

“There were a lot of bumps along the way,” she said. “We had ups and downs.”

VICTORY GARDEN

Her husband at least had a job during the Great Depression, she said, when millions of Americans were out of work.

“Charles worked hard,” Hazel said. “We made it through the Depression.

“Then in the ‘40s, we had rationing (during World War II). You cut out a coupon to get meat, beans, whatever you needed.

“We had big gardens,” she continued. “Victory Gardens, they were called. That’s how we got vegetables.”

After almost 50 years of marriage, Charles died in 1989.

CLEAN LIFE

Hazel said she attributes her longevity to living a clean life, without smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol.

“I’m doing good. I never thought much about it. I didn’t want it (such a very long life).”

Nancy said her mother has always faced life with a positive attitude.

“She went though some tough times. She said, ‘I don’t know what’s great about turning 100.’”

Hazel said she has hobbies that keep her entertained.

“I have sewing as a hobby. I keep busy. I enjoy myself.”

Email Lohr McKinstry:lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com