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City woman puts in her time at 94

April 17, 2000|By MARLO BARNHART

Hazel Shaw was 77 when she got her first driver's license 17 years ago.

"I was so pleased because I passed the first time," said Hazel. She recalled that a young girl who took the test that same day ran her car over a curb and failed the test.

To Hazel, 94, age is just a number.

Her philosophy has led her to take a part-time volunteer job at the Maryland State Fire Marshal's office.

Once a week, Hazel walks over to the Washington County Office Building at 33 W. Washington St., where she works with Heidi Ritchie, State Fire Marshal administrative assistant, for three hours.

"Hazel files, makes copies, opens mail and stamps it," Ritchie said. "This then frees me up for other things."

Ritchie knew that volunteers were available through the RSVP program at the Commission on Aging. In fact, she has had volunteers before Hazel.

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"It's a big help," Ritchie said.

Hazel lives at Potomac Towers senior apartments and enjoys maintaining an active lifestyle. "I like being with young people," she said.

A business college graduate, Hazel worked 48 years at the Hagerstown Shoe Co., which once employed hundreds of workers at a Franklin Street factory.

Then she was a hat maker at Fleischer's Department Store, which used to be in Hagerstown's Public Square.

She retired in 1976, and after her husband died in 1982, she was alone in the house. "We didn't have children of our own but we had raised others," Hazel said.

After an aneurism that year forced her into a nursing home for a while, Hazel's life began to change.

As soon as she was able, she checked herself out of the nursing home and found an apartment by herself, determined to be independent again.

Eventually she made her way to Potomac Towers, where she continues to be on her own as much as possible.

"I really like this job" at the Fire Marshal's Office, Hazel said.

Born in 1906, Hazel left her hometown of Richmond, Va., in 1922 for a visit to a brother in Hagerstown.

"I never went back," she said.

When she's not working, Hazel does a lot of walking.

Recently she completed a 4.75-mile walk at a downtown event with two Pennsylvania women she met that day.

"I didn't need a baby sitter. ... I just went with them for companionship," she said.

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