Hazel Jennings passed away quietly in her sleep at Shepherd of the Valley Care Center April 30, 2012. She was 106 years old.
Hazel was born Feb. 28, 1906, in Lodi, near Oconto. Her parents were Ross and Maude Kitch. She had a brother, Roy, who was two years older than her. When Hazel was 6-months-old, her family moved to a homestead nine miles northwest of Climax. Her father dug wells for a living.
Hazel grew up on the homestead and attended Gem School through 10th grade, riding horseback two miles to and from the country school. She made many lifetime friends and wonderful memories during that time.
In 1923, her father sold their land and moved his family to Dunning, where Hazel and Roy finished school. They both graduated from Dunning High School in 1925.
Hazel grew up loving music. She made her first fiddle out of a cigar box, a broom stick and horse hair. She made the bow using horse hair and a twig. Her parents weren't too happy about Old Dan's "bobbed tail". Her uncle gave Hazel her first fiddle at age 10, and she began "seconding" for old time fiddler, Jeff Henderson, to make extra money for her family.
It was at one of these barn dances that she met her future husband, John Jennings. She taught John how to play the fiddle and the two of them played at barn dances together after they were married. Hazel also played the piano. All of the music she played was by ear.
John and Hazel were married March 18, 1926, shortly after she was offered a job teaching. She chose John over the job. The two of them ranched seven miles south of Dunning raising registered Herefords. She said she preferred working in the hay fields over cooking in the hot kitchen.
Together they had one son, Dean, after being married for over 15 years. Dean was 6-years-old when they moved to Dunning so he could attend school. John and Hazel were married 39 years until his death in 1965. She never remarried.
Hazel lived in Dunning for over 60 years and was quite independent. She loved to play cards with her friends and family and she enjoyed traveling. She mowed her lawn and drove her own car until she was 93. She decided to move to Wyoming at 94 to be closer to family, but Nebraska was always home. She spent the remainder of her life teaching grandkids how to play Canasta, Aggravation, checkers and other games.
She liked to be the one who did the teaching so she could make up her own rules. She loved it when the kids got wise enough to figure this out, but would still occasionally pretend she "forgot" a rule if it meant winning. While in the nursing homes in Green River and Casper, she was the first to go to game time and loved bingo and music time.
Hazel was preceded in death by her father and mother, Ross and Maude Kitch; brother, Roy; husband John; niece, Lorna Mae Kitch; and nephew, GD Kitch.
She is survived by her son, Dean and wife Kathy of Dunning; granddaughters Lu and husband David Kasper of Green River, Wyo., Mikki Roberts of Casper, Wyo., and Terri and husband Philip Isbell of Bentonville, Ariz.; grandson, John and wife Anna Jennings of Casper; 10 great- grandchildren: Michelle Coghlin, Jonie Dale, Robin Alley, Kevin Kasper, Larissa, Burnell, Sharrid Jennings, Keith Kasper, Kaleta Isbell, Jason Jennings and Cordel Isbell; and 12 great-great grand children. She will be missed.
Funeral services were Friday, May 4, 2012, at the Sandhills Community Church in Dunning, with the Rev. Lee Wonch and the Rev. David Hansen officiating. Burial was in the Dunning Cemetery. Govier Brothers Mortuary of Broken Bow was in charge of the arrangements.
Published in Custer County Chief May 10, 2012