When Sandpoint resident Hazel Hall turned 95 last year, her friends in this tight-knit community wanted to honor her. So the mayor declared it Hazel Hall day and many gathered at City Hall to pay tribute to a woman who has won the hearts of many.
“Hazel lights up a room when she walks into it,” said Hall’s friend Marsha Ogilvie. The wife of the late photographer Ross Hall, Hazel ran the couple’s studio while Ross was stationed at Farragut during the war.
“I was the only photographer in the county for a while,” said Hall.
Hall was also one of the first recipients of Sandpoint’s Women of Wisdom award, an honor bestowed upon area women over age 65 who have given of themselves to help make Sandpoint a better place in which to live. At that time, Hall was asked to share her pearls of wisdom and her answer was simple: attitude and gratitude.
“Optimism is another word I like for life,” said Hall recently.
Because she has enriched the lives of so many people, Hall’s friends wanted to do something more than just honor her for a day. As ideas were being bounced off one another, e-mails started circulating and cell phones began to ring. One suggestion was a bench in the park dedicated to Hall. But when someone mentioned a children’s garden they all knew it was the perfect idea. But ask Hall today why people are doing this for her and she is baffled.
“The question I ask is why? Because I don’t know why. There are so many more deserving people,” said Hall who says she is grateful but believes there is really nothing special about her. “There’s nothing unusual about me except maybe I am about the oldest person in town.”
Through many years of raising three children, Hall said she was involved in many of their activities, including Campfire, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
“I just love the little kids,” she said.
She also worked with several community organizations over the years including a civic club that helped build trails and plant flowers. “I just love to plant flowers,” said Hall.
She also assisted in the Little Theater and was instrumental in the start up of what is now Pend Oreille Arts Council.
Linda Plaster is the Healing Garden committee chairman. According to Ogilvie, Plaster said one of the plans for the Healing Garden was to create a Children’s Garden, but that it would take an estimated $10,000 to finance it. Ogilvie and her friends went to work and through an e-mail campaign the group raised more than $12,000.
Now after a year of planning, fundraising and hard work, the new Children’s Garden, created in honor of Hall, will hold its grand opening celebration on Saturday.
The garden has several interactive toys and has been transformed into a magical and whimsical place where children can play and simply be kids.
Until the Healing Garden was created about five years ago there was no place at Bonner General Hospital for anyone – children or adults – who has a sick or dying loved one to go and meditate, pray or just find some peace. Now with the opening of the Children’s Garden there is also a place for the younger members of the community.
Entering the garden, children will find a purple pig, kangaroo, toadstools, bird houses, a fort and rabbits.
The grand opening promises to be a magical day. The plant sale will open at 9 a.m. and the children’s activities will begin at 10 a.m. and go until 3 p.m. Sandpoint Mayor Gretchen Hellar and Hall, now 96, will cut the ribbon at 11 a.m.
Ogilvie said there will be many costumed characters who will entertain the children and instruct them in the activities.
“There will also be mini terra cotta pots available for children to paint,” said Ogilvie.
The children will receive a goody bag as they enter the garden and can collect raffle tickets at each activity. At the end the tickets will be drawn and prizes will be awarded.
In addition to all the children’s activities there will be 11 local artists painting and selling terra cotta planters. All of the proceeds will be donated to the Healing Garden.
“The pots that the artists will create make great gifts,” said Ogilvie. “There are also plants for sale and the Master Gardeners will be there and can plant them in the pots.”
The plan is to make this event into an annual spring festival. Ogilvie said she hopes to work with local elementary schools and have the children learn about planting and come and plant their seeds each spring in the garden.
Children are already enjoying all the garden has to offer.
“One little boy who visited the garden last week calls it the happy garden,” said Ogilvie. “The Healing Garden and the Children’s Garden were an answer to a need in Sandpoint.”
Hall who continues to live her life by her own words of wisdom – attitude, gratitude and optimism – says she is looking forward to the grand opening celebration.
“I think it was a grand idea that they made the Children’s Garden whether they named it after someone or not,” said Hall.
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