by Margaret Riddle
Hazel Frederici Clark lived a quiet but amazing life that included the roles of professional librarian, wife and mother, writer and historian, amateur musician and artist, devoted church leader, community activist and dedicated volunteer.
She was born in 1906 in Belltown, a district that is now part of downtown Seattle. “In those days,” Hazel said, “Seattle didn’t exist much above Pike or Pine.” The family moved next to Sunnyside, (now part of Capitol Hill), and were close to the University of Washington campus when it hosted Seattle’s Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition in 1909. Hazel’s father took photos of the family at that event.
The family numbered three, Mom, Dad and Hazel. They enjoyed reading books together and hiking Western Washington trails, two loves that Hazel continued throughout her life. Hazel’s parents encouraged her studious nature. Upon graduating from old Broadway High School in Seattle, Hazel entered the University of Washington, planning to become a teacher, but upon receiving a degree in education continued her studies, earning a second degree, a Bachelor of Science in Library Science. At that time the requirement needed for professional librarians extended through three college quarters— “short in comparison with the academic curriculum, because the general educational equipment of the librarian is of larger significance than the technical education, but neither is sufficient without the other.*”
In 1928, Hazel came to work for the Everett Public Library when it was in the Carnegie building on Oakes Avenue. Library patrons remember her during those early years as stern and intimidating, her tallness and large build adding to the persona. She spoke her mind. When Everett decided to build a new library during the Great Depression, prominent architect Carl Gould was chosen to draw the plans. Librarians and staff workers were asked to estimate how much book space they would need to grow. Gould, however, did not take their advice, and according to Hazel, the built-in shelving was full shortly after the new library opened.
Officially, Hazel worked at EPL from 1928 to 1975, taking only a few years off, during the 1940s, to raise her daughter Roxanne. Hazel had married millworker Roxor Clark, and the Clarks took up housekeeping in Lowell (now part of present-day Everett). Hazel became an active member of the Lowell Community Church which Lowell founders E. D. and Margaret Getchell Smith had built. Hazel knew many of Lowell’s senior residents and those she did not know personally, she recalled through stories she learned from elders. Hazel became a storyteller, sharing these stories with the younger generation. By the 1970s, Lowell residents considered Hazel their official historian. Hazel began writing Lowell history, and in 1977, the Lowell Civic Group published her short history called Lowell Remembered. Hazel later wrote and published Reminiscences of Sunnydale and An Informal History of the Everett Public Library.
Hazel officially retired from library work in 1975, but she did not really leave. She volunteered one day a week at the library, working on indexing the Everett Herald, a project started in September of 1971, upon the suggestion of another librarian. This, she felt, was important work, so she continued until The Herald began computer indexing in 1992.
To those who worked with her at the Everett Public Library, Hazel Clark was a faithful and constant presence, the most esteemed senior member of the library family, the one who was always there. Her health began to fail in 1998 and she decided to leave as a volunteer in the spring of 1999. Library staff said goodbye with a party that united present personnel with many retirees who came to wish her well.
Hazel Clark died February 14th , 2000, at the age of 93. In March of that year, Senator Jeralita Costa honored Hazel with a State Senate Resolution, read in Olympia. In addition to her library work, Hazel was honored for authoring books on local history, as well as for her volunteer hours with the Snohomish County Museum, the UW Alumni Association, Bethany Home and the Public Employees Retirement Association. As the resolution stated, “Hazel Clark was one who took on the role of promoting literacy and preserving the history of the great Northwest, with passion and dedication, both in her paid and volunteer careers.”
Hazel earned affection and admiration many times over. Hers was a lifelong commitment, to her calling, her family and to the library where she began her professional career back in 1928. She was a librarian, and for 70 years the Everett Public Library was her library. Only when she was physically unable to continue did she cease to serve. On a daily basis her legacy of works, such as the Everett Herald Index, continues to serve the public, and her example continues to motivate and inspire.
~Clark, Hazel. Lowell Remembered. Everett, Wash: Lowell Civic Group, 1977;
~Clark, Hazel. Reminiscences of Sunnydale: Early Days, School Days in Highline. Everett, Wash: Lowell Printing and Publishing, 1994;
~Clark, Hazel. An Informal History of the Everett Public Library. Everett, Wash: Lowell Printing and Publishing, 1996 ;
Interview with Hazel Clark by David Dilgard and Margaret Riddle, March 1, 1983 and 15 years of Wednesday chit-chats between Hazel Clark and Margaret Riddle.
© 2006 Margaret Riddle All Rights Reserved