Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Englund remembered for lively humor, garden


December 14, 2017

Hazel Englund said the secret to her longevity was keeping her garden.

Hazel Englund died Friday at age 101. The saucy-tongued centenarian was known for hard work, meticulous housekeeping and a ribald sense of humor.

Englund is believed to be the oldest person born in Haines. She survived non-Hodgkins lymphoma at age 83, and after turning 90 still shoveled snow and baked potato bread in a wood-fired oven.

"At 99, she was still trying to get up (to her garden)," daughter Emily Zimbrich said this week. Asked on the 100th birthday the secret of her longevity, Englund told a newspaper reporter it was (from) keeping a garden.

"I don't think even she knew the answer to that question," Zimbrich said. "But her antidote to depression was she went outdoors every day, regardless of what the weather was. She didn't allow herself to be depressed. That was not acceptable...It was important for her to be productive."

Terry Pardee eulogized Englund as the last of a generation of pioneers "who made this town what it is today" at a Jones Point graveside service Monday.

Englund was born Sept. 16, 1916, the eighth of nine children of Henry and Minnie Vermiere, who moved to town for its agricultural promise. On a farm on the town's west side, Englund and her siblings helped their parents raise cows, horses, pigs and poultry to help supply Fort Seward with groceries.

Her childhood exploits included dressing as a boy to find work, selling purloined bottles of beer to soldiers, and working as a waitress for brothel owner Lou LaMoore in the building now occupied by the Pioneer Bar.

At age 20, Englund borrowed a ring from her sister Clara to marry Niles Englund, a Swedish immigrant and Fort Seward soldier. In a shack at 2 Mile Haines Highway without electricity or plumbing, she and Niles "lived like hippies," she once said, using hand tools to build a picturesque cottage on a hill.

Englund lived nearly 70 years in the home and died there. She reared four children and a raised a garden that included peas, carrots, lettuce, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, cabbage and potatoes. She hunted moose and looked after her sisters, five of whom remained in Haines. She was known as thrifty.

"She didn't buy anything she didn't need. If she needed it, she bought it, but for years she lived on very little and made it work," Emily Zimbrich said.

Granddaughter Mikki Chandler of Chugiak remembers Englund driving to Anchorage to bring her to Haines each summer. Englund taught her granddaughter to make jams and jellies, and led outings that included singing, berry-picking and picnicking. As an adult, Chandler drove to Englund's each summer so her own daughter could have the same experience.

To honor her grandmother's tireless spirit, Chandler said she planted gooseberries and currants like those at Englund's at her home outside Anchorage. "I work in the corporate world. I know hard-working people, but I've never known anyone who worked harder than Hazel," Chandler said Monday.

But Englund was also never too far from a joke, including bawdy ones, a habit she may have picked up from her time with soldiers.

At Monday's memorial service, former port director and U.S. border worker Judy Ewald recalled how Englund and her sisters, Jo Jurgeleit and Emma Smith, would needle new border agents during outings up the highway.

"The new guy would ask for their IDs and they'd say, 'Oh, you know us. Go ask inside.' Pretty soon (the sisters) would start asking, 'Where are you from? What's your name? Are you married? No? We could find a woman for you...' They'd be asking them all the questions. They were characters," Ewald said.

Englund traveled to Sweden with her husband and also made trips to Hawaii, California and Anchorage. But she didn't pine for those places, her daughter said. "She didn't know why people lived in other places. She liked it here."

For about a decade, Englund's birthday was celebrated annually at the Pioneer Bar, with friends in their 80s and 90s around the table. A townwide celebration of her 100th birthday was held at the fairgrounds' Harriett Hall. But daughter Zimbrich said her mother disliked losing her mobility and told caretaker Donna Bell about a month ago "she was thinking of giving up."

Englund was preceded in death by her parents and siblings, husband Niles Englund, son Glen Englund, daughter Keitsie Anderson and son-in-law Gene Zimbrich. Survivors include daughters Josephine Kauffman of Chugiak and Emily Zimbrich of Haines; grandchildren Darren and Brett Englund of California; Cari O'Daniel and Valerie Zimbrich of Skagway; Cheryl Anderson, Cindy Tamplin and Jennifer Haney of Medford, Ore. and by Mikki Chandler of Chugiak.

She is also survived by seven great-grandchildren and by three great-great grandchildren.


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