Hazel Burger, 105, passed away peacefully Dec. 28, 2016. Known widely as Sun City’s oldest resident, she epitomized the community’s active adult characterization, and died as she lived.
“She went out with style and went out with class, and that was Mom,” said Glenys Ryan, one of Hazel’s three daughters.
The centenarian had had a stroke before the holidays and spent a few days in the hospital, Ryan said, but she was able to return home.
“She was happy to be in her own home. She was able to see some good friends over the Christmas weekend. That was beautiful,” the daughter said. “She could not speak but she could see people.”
Hazel’s other two daughters are Sandra Iams, who also lives in Sun City, and Sarah Meyer. “We have been here and been together,” said Ryan, “and that was good.”
Hazel was born Jan. 8, 1911, in Elkhart, Ind., one of eight children.
She made no secret that there was no secret to a long life. She would always start that conversation advising others to eat smart.
When she was about 50, she was having health issues and came across a doctor who practiced holistic medicine. She changed her diet to whole grains, no sugar, no dairy, no preservatives and plenty of water every day.
Within a few months, she said, her problems were cleared up without taking any medicine.
Hazel continued to follow that regimen “about 80 percent of the time,” but did sometimes eat a bit of cheese. She avoided red meat, eating only chicken or fish on occasion.
Her diet, however, was not the only thing that kept her moving. After years of traveling and finally settling in Peoria, Ill., Hazel and Lewis, her husband of 64 years, moved to Sun City in 1999. Sadly, Lewis died in 2000.
Always an active person, Hazel never slowed down. She became an avid volunteer, spending her time working with the Salvation Army Thrift Store, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the LowCountry Presbyterian Church where she was a member. Hazel was also a member of the PEO Sisterhood – the Philanthropic Educational Organization.
When she was not volunteering, she was taking part in a variety of athletic or performance activities.
She had to cut back on her watercolor painting because the classes “interfered with my tennis.” When balance became an issue on the courts, she gave up tennis for golf.
A Sun City Community Theatre club member once pointed to Hazel as the club’s oldest member and indeed, she had participated in several productions. She took tap dance lessons not to perform, but “it’s just for fun.”
She and her close friend, Fred Zoda, a young 99, were members of the Ballroom Dance Club and were often found floating on the dance floor at various events, as well as karaoke, where Fred frequently sang.
A celebration of Hazel’s life will be held at 11 a.m. Jan. 6 at LowCountry Presbyterian Church, followed by a reception in the Fellowship Hall.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to LowCountry Presbyterian Church or the Salvation Army.
Gwyneth J. Saunders is a veteran journalist and freelance writer living in Bluffton