A Life Lived: Hazel Weaver’s heart saw what her eyes could not

Published 9:55 am Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Hazel Weaver had been blind since she was about 12 years old, but it never kept her from leading a beautiful life — that of wife, mother, homemaker, and for several years she was employed by the Tennessee Blind Industries.
“For a blind person she saw more than most of us ever will,” said Judy Deloach, Administrator of Ivy Hall Nursing Home. Hazel had lived at Ivy Hall for the past nine and one-half years.
“She endeared herself to the staff and residents. Her outlook on life was wonderful. She was a very upbeat person, very kind and loving,” said Deloach.
An attendant at Memorial Funeral Chapel noted that during visitation for Hazel, there were several who came in to sign the guest book, and every one of them with a smile made the comment: “She was my adopted grandmother.” The attendant learned they all worked at Ivy Hall and had taken care of Mrs. Weaver at some time.
According to Hazel’s daughter, Debbie Sparks, her mother began losing her sight around the age of three. “By the time she was 12, she was completely blind. My father, Grady Weaver, who, too, was blind at the time, worked with the Tennessee School for the Blind, helping adults who were visually impaired. He heard about my mother and reached out to her. Hazel first became involved in the blind school’s vending services and later she was encouraged to continue her education at the Tennessee School for the Blind in Donelson, Tn.
“At the Blind School, she learned Braille, mobility, and so many other things such as cooking, housecleaning, and how to care for herself,” said Debbie.
During that time, Hazel and Grady fell in love and were secretly married. “My Dad was 21 years older than my mother, but they were such a lovely couple, especially as they grew older together,” Debbie shared.
“She finished school and never told anyone she was married. If she had, they would not have let her finish school. She accrued some honors, among them Queen. At her coronation, her escort fell for her and kept asking for a date. She turned down each request. One day, he asked her to marry him, and, of course, she had to say ‘no’ because she was already married. I thought that was so funny, and so did she,” shared Debbie.
After Hazel finished school, she returned to Elizabethton. She and Grady for many years lived on Mill St. After about nine years of marriage, Debbie was born. “My parents were blind, but they were able to take care of me, and gave me so much love. Then, from about the age of three and thereafter, I became my mother’s eyes. We would catch the bus and go uptown and I would direct her to all the stores. My mother was amazing. She could iron, keep house, and after I married and had children, she babysit my twin son and daughter while I worked. There wasn’t much she couldn’t do,” shared Debbie.
After Hazel’s husband died in the 1980s, she made contact with the Volunteer Services for the Blind in Morristown, and secured a job. Hazel called her daughter, told her she was going to work, and needed a ride to Morristown. “I didn’t want her to go, but she was determined. She stayed in Morristown and worked there well over 20 years until she began having some health issues. My mother was a very determined person and the fact that she was blind did not deter her from doing most things. She was remarkable, always upbeat,” said Debbie.
After Hazel went to Ivy Hall to live, she never looked back. “She never wanted to go back home,” said Debbie.
She was an inspiration to so many, and even at Ivy Hall, she was an encourager to so many of the residents, especially those there for short-term rehab.
At Ivy Hall, Hazel was the life of the party. “Every year at Christmas, she was the first one on the van to go to the Bristol Speedway to see the holiday lights. She remembered lights from earlier in life when she could see and in her mind she saw the images of the lights. Hazel knew each of the employees by their voices, and, regardless of the activity, she participated, whether it was BINGO, tossing the beach ball around the room, or church services. She especially enjoyed preaching and singing,” said Deloach.
Debbie agreed that her mother enjoyed living at Ivy Hall, and felt that it enriched her faith. “She was baptized there. In her earlier years she had attended services at Redeemer Lutheran Church, but when she had no way to get to the Lutheran Church, she began attending Pleasant Beach Baptist, because she could ride the van. She loved her pastor, Bobby Stout, and the services. She always attended church services at Ivy Hall, and loved Preacher Nathan Jennings, who held Sunday services at the home. Her faith was very genuine,” Debbie said.
Although Hazel loved her daughter and grandchildren, and her sisters, she was especially favored by the Ivy Hall staff. “She belonged to each one of us,” said Deloach.
And, just as Hazel Weaver was special to the Ivy Hall staff, Ivy Hall will always be special to Hazel’s daughter. “I will always try to be a part of that nursing home. They were such an integral part of my mother’s life and gave her so much joy,” shared Debbie.
It is true that the most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart.

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