The gifts were sent about 10 days prior to Christmas. When opened, tears of remembrance flowed and the phones around Sandpoint began to ring with friends calling one another to see if they received a similar package with the same mysterious return address.
One thing the recipients had in common was their close-knit friendship with the late Hazel Hall who died in August at 96.
It quickly became clear that these gifts were handpicked by Hall prior to her death and delivered by a special elf.
“It just gives me goose bumps to think that she planned this,” said Patti Clemons who received a porcelain angel in her package.
Sue Brooks said she was aware that Hall had been sorting out all of her belongings for the last couple of years.
“Her bedroom was a collection of carefully dated and sorted boxes,” said Brooks. “Hazel was carefully planning everything that would take place upon her passing. She was at peace with the idea and ready to go.”
All of the gifts were mailed with a return address of a post office box in Dover, Idaho, and the sender’s name was simply “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Not only is that the title of a well-known Christmas movie, but it is also the title of one of the late photographer Ross Hall’s most popular photographs. Ross was Hazel’s husband, who passed away in 1990. His work is known far beyond the borders of Sandpoint. It is also the motto by which Hazel Hall lived her life and obviously the reminder she wanted to send her friends at Christmas time.
“Hazel always thought it was a wonderful life,” said her friend of 38 years, Mary Walter, who received a pin from the Festival at Sandpoint in her package. “Nothing ever got her down.”
“To know she was thinking of us, knew how sad we would be without her and then, to leave a little something of her to us is just one of the many reasons we loved her,” said Marsha Ogilvie who received a greeting card in her package; one that she had sent Hall several years prior.
Sue Brooks also received a gift which she said was obviously chosen especially for her.
“My gift was a saying on a magnet that reads ‘May your path be strewn with flowers, memories, friends and happy hours. May blessings come from heaven above to fill your life with peace and love,’ ” said Brooks, who has already memorized the saying. “The message was clearly for me and personal. You see, I use to bring her flowers. She loved flowers and the life and color they brought to her place.”
“Only Hazel would do something so special before she passed on,” adds Walter.
Brooks said that Hall had a way of making everyone feel special and she is touched by the message Hall sent after her passing.
“She knew how we would all be affected by this and I believe these were meant to be a final message of how much we all meant to her,” said Brooks.
Sandpoint resident Bobbie Huguenin knew Hall her entire life. In fact, she says, she has a photo of the Halls with her on the day Bobbie was brought home from the hospital .
“Losing Hazel was the loss of a link to my entire life,” said Huguenin, who received what she describes as a lovely sounding bell in her mystery package. “I have a large bell collection I’ve had since childhood. I think that’s why that’s what I received it. We rang bells during the Mass at Christmas and I used Hazel’s bell.”
Barb Perusse, who received a wreath pin in her package, calls Hall her inspiration.
“It warms my heart to have her so close to me,” said Perusse. “She was such a remarkable woman and her depths of caring and love are something I will always strive to work towards.”
Clemons, like all the women who received a gift from beyond, will treasure her gift of the angel and knows it will be a constant reminder of her special friend and that Hall is always with her.
“For me it confirmed what I have always known – that Hazel is our angel and now she is watching over all of us,” said Clemons.