Written by Norman Johnson, contributing writer
Nacogdoches lost an angel this past week. That’s tragic because we have very few angels around here. And we sure don’t have many angels like the one we lost. Hazel Abernathy died this week and there sure weren’t many angels like her around. She influenced our lives in many, many ways.
Hazel and her parents and family moved to Nacogdoches in 1923 as a family faculty for the opening of Stephen F, Austin State Teacher’s College. Her Dad, Robert Shelton was SFA’S first coach, athletic director and later, Dean of Men. She graduated from SFA in 1944 where she was student body President. When she graduated in 1958 she was Miss SFA, and was awarded the Carolyn Thompson Hill Award. She married her high school sweetheart Francis Abernathy. Everyone called him Ab and I’m sure that delighted him. There rapidly came a time when she was teaching History at SFA, her husband was teaching English, and her son was teaching Geology. Soon her dream of having a large family came to pass as a whole passel of kids joined the family as well as many cats and dogs.
She was Inducted into the Nacogdoches Women’s Hall of Fame and served two terms as president of the City Federation of Women’s Clubs. Of course, along the way she was named a distinguished Alumni of Nacogdoches High School.
According to the Daily Sentinel, during the fiftieth anniversary of World War II she wrote “The Home Front: 1941-1945. It was published by The Chamber of Commerce. It was re-published as a text book and used by many schools and by armed forces schools abroad.
Hazel developed a magical personal and professional relationship with Sarah McMullen at Lamplite Theater. She was a great actress and took on the awesome job of Stage Manager. My wife, Lill Mayes Johnson tells me her most precious memory was Hazel’s habit as the actors went on stage she would hold up the small container as say “You want a Tic-Tac?”
I saw Hazel and Ab not long ago in Brookshires. We had a fun discussion As I started to leave Hazel said, “give me a big hug” which I did. I will always cherish that hug from a precious angel. That hug will linger forever. And I betcha when Hazel goes through the gates, a sainted angel will say, “Hazel, You need a tic-tac?”