Hazel Newing Gerlitz Bentley passed away in G.R. Baker Memorial Hospital on November 5, 2007, just a few weeks short of her 94th birthday, after a long and courageous battle with bone cancer. Funeral services were held on Thursday, November 8, at Clayton’s Funeral Chapel with Jack Nelson officiating.
Hazel was the fifth child of a family of seven. Grandpa Newing had emigrated from England just before her birth, and Hazel arrived in Victoria as the family made their way around the country, following Grandpa’s business. The family lived a comfortable life, but all that changed in the thirties. Her father died, a depression started, and Hazel worked very hard on a series of odd jobs to scrape a living in difficult times. She was, fortunately, joined in the struggle by her first husband, Dutch, whom she married in 1937.
The war years brought more prosperity, and the birth of their only child, Carolyn. The family moved to Vancouver, and eventually settled in Richmond, where Hazel worked for Sears, and retired as the manager of their switchboard. It was during this time that she joined the Order of the Royal Purple, an organization very dear to her heart, and one she remained with for over forty years.
Hazel and Dutch packed up and moved, at retirement, to Quesnel, where the extended family: daughter Carolyn, son-in-law Albert Johnston, and eventually grandchildren Jennifer and Melinda, could still be together. After a sojourn at Bouchie lake, they moved to a mobile on Albert’s property. After that, grandchildren Jennifer and Melinda spent as much time wandering in and our of Nan’s house as they did their own. When Dutch died in 1981, Hazel remained active in the community. She volunteered with the Hospital Auxiliary, the Royal Purple, the Eastern Star, the Golden Centre, and enjoyed her time with the Quesnel Bowlers. If one wanted Nana for babysitting, an appointment had to be booked.
Despite advancing age, in her mind, Hazel never stopped being a young girl, brimming with adventure. The frugal spirit of the thirties was always with her, and she would garden in a decades-old plaid jacket, but she wouldn’t stir from the house without lipstick. At 77, she met her second husband, Jim Bentley, at the Quesnel Bowlers. And they enjoyed ten years together. She also saw her lovely great grandchildren, Adam and Katherine Osmond, come into the world and start to grow. The family feels so blessed that Adam and Katherine are now old enough to remember their Grand-Nan as part of their lives.
That little house right beside her daughter suited Nana to a tee, and she never wanted to leave it. She fought hard, so hard, to remain independent and to remain there to the end of her days. She succeeded until this past nine months, when her illness took command of her body and she had to be hospitalized. The illness took her body – but never her spirit. She was visited each evening by a family member, and the staff would tell small stories of her day, usually how she made someone laugh. But pain and disability were growing, and death came as a kind friend, offering rest and peace.
It has been a commonplace saying recently that “it takes a village to raise a child.: Our small family has discovered that it also takes a village to see to the care and well being of our elderly. From her wonderful Dr. Walker (earlier Barber and Havens), to the kind people of Dunrovin and Homecare, to the best nursing staff in the immediate universe on the third floor of G. R. Baker, to Chris and Donna of Palliative Care, to her friends of Royal Purple and the Golden Centre, the family will remain forever grateful that her last months were made as interesting and comfortable as they could possibly be. They are additionally grateful that they were treated with such kindness and understanding by the staff of Clayton’s and by everyone with whom they came in contact.
Goodbye, Mom. We love you, and we will see you in our minds and in our hearts every tomorrow of our lives.