Centenarian honored with parade
By Sam Jack
On her 100th birthday last Thursday, Aug. 16, Viola High School graduate Hazel Dalbom was surprised with a parade down Ross Avenue in Clearwater.
Students from the Clearwater Intermediate-Middle School used their lunch break to line the street, cheer and wave signs. The middle school band played “Happy Birthday.” Many family members and friends were on hand to cheer and honk their horns.
Dalbom rode, grinning, in a golf cart bedecked with balloons, preceded and followed by Clearwater Fire Department engines with lights blazing.
“I have many fond memories of Hazel and (her late husband) Dale,” said Bob Dalbom, who drove over from Viola to see the parade and congratulate his aunt. “I remember going over to their house, especially for Thanksgiving dinner. All the men would eat dinner, go in and take naps. … I run into a lot of Hazel’s former students, and they tell me what a good teacher she was. They said she was very tough, but very good.”
Hazel grew up on a farmstead in rural Viola, one of 10 children of Jim and Ella Matzen.Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the Aug. 23 print editions of the Star-Argosy and The Times-Sentinel. To get stories like this sooner, and to get all your community news, become a subscriber. Call 316-540-0500 to start delivery of your hometown paper.She attended Viola High School and excelled in her classes. She was so good at math that her teacher asked her to help other students, including some older than herself.
Her future husband, Dale, was a classmate. They were married a few years after high school, and they went on to have a long, happy union until his death in 2004.
After high school, Hazel went on to Sterling College, where she completed a two-year teaching certificate program. Those two years in Sterling were the only two she spent living away from southern Sedgwick County, and the only two she spent living somewhere other than a farm.
In 1937, Hazel started her first teaching job, at Pleasant View Country School. Later, she returned to college, studying at Friends University and Wichita University (now Wichita State) and earning a master’s degree.
She taught English at Clearwater High School for decades, retiring in the late 1970s. After concluding her classroom career, she served a number of years on the USD 264 Board of Education.
One of her high school students was son John Dalbom, who graduated in 1962 and eventually followed his father and grandparents into the local agriculture business.
“I knew John was going to want to go to college, and I wanted to make sure he knew what he was doing,” Hazel said.
John went on to graduate from K-State.
“She was my senior class sponsor. All through my school years, she was very involved,” John said. “She’s pretty cool.”
Hazel’s classroom at Clearwater High School had blackboards on all four walls. She would use the large writing surface to diagram sentences and to give extended examples of various writing and reading techniques.
“For some reason, my kids were always eager,” Hazel said. “I didn’t have any trouble with them.”
She got dozens of birthday cards from former students.
“Many people have told me that Hazel gave them the love of reading,” said Sharon Koller, one of Hazel’s caregivers. “What a wonderful gift.”
Hazel has maintained an active interest in hobbies and social activities during her long retirement. She is a long-time member of the First Baptist Church of Clearwater. And she plays bridge weekly at the Clearwater Senior and Community Center, one of a handful of ladies who have been playing each other for 50 years or more. She thinks playing the strategically-complicated card game has helped keep her sharp.
“And there’s many kinds of good books to read,” she added. “I enjoy that, and I have no problem reading. I read a daily paper and a weekly paper, and I read books.”
Earlier this month, Hazel’s three children – John, Deanna Weeks and Tim Dalbom – threw her a 100th birthday party with family. All eight grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren, plus spouses, attended.
Hazel’s friends and family are pleased that she was able to celebrate her 100th birthday at home, in the house just west of Clearwater that she helped design. She doesn’t think there’s any particular secret to her longevity.
“I don’t have a clue,” she said. “I’m surprised myself.”