Remembering Miss Hazel

HazelIt is with deep sadness that we learned that our dear Miss Hazel Mines passed away on September 4, 2023. Hazel was a cherished member of the Camp Alleghany community for over 30 years and will be dearly missed.

Miss Hazel joined the Camp Alleghany staff in 1981 as our Head Chef and head of the kitchen. She worked at Episcopal High School during the school year, where my grandfather Cooper Dawson, Jr. attended and worked for many years. When he had a need for kitchen staff he called up some connections at Episcopal to inquire about any staff who may need a summer job, and the rest is history. Hazel stayed with Alleghany until her retirement from camp after the summer of 2012. 

Hazel’s Food

HazelDuring those 30+ years, Hazel was an institution at Alleghany. She ran a tight ship in the kitchen, keeping things organized and orderly, and keeping all of camp well-fed. She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind or tell you when you were doing something wrong. But she did all of this with immense love. She truly cared about everyone in the Alleghany community and cared about making sure the food was good and plentiful

Alleghany alums will all have different opinions on their favorite foods that Hazel prepared, but some that stand out are her fried chicken on Sundays, accompanied by mashed potatoes and gravy, her Thanksgiving turkey dinner, her perfect grilled cheese sandwiches, only rivaled by her perfect scrambled eggs, pancakes, pastas, and more. She was a natural in the kitchen and her food was true comfort food – a must when you’re away from home for the summer!

Hazel’s Personality

I was a Hopper (server) for two summers and had the pleasure of working in the kitchen with her. She never seemed stressed, though it’s a high-stress job. There were certainly times when she would raise her voice and yell at someone in the way, or someone doing something wrong, always accompanied by some very colorful language (we learned some new vocabulary from her!), but it was also humorous and she made us laugh along the way. 

One of my favorite stories is from when I was new in my Assistant Director role, and during one of the meals several people approached me in the Dining Hall saying they thought they smelled gas, and asked if I would check in the kitchen for any sort of leak. When I tiptoed up to Miss Hazel in the kitchen to relay this message, she turned around and started yelling and said if people are smelling something bad, they’re smelling their top lip! I quickly scurried out of the kitchen, stifling a laugh, and promptly told everyone that everything was fine (and in the end, there was NO gas leak).

And Hazel herself loved a good laugh! If she wasn’t creating the laughs, she was laughing herself. Always full of fun and jokes, she had an amazing sense of humor and loved life so much that her laughter and cheer were contagious. 

HazelBut then on a more serious note, she also was a solid listening ear and gave the most wonderful, heartfelt advice. Many Alleghany campers and staff would seek her advice on anything in life – careers, love, school, decisions, and more. She gave this advice with so much love and genuine care for everyone she spoke to. She was a woman of great wisdom and solid counsel. 

And despite her humor, laughs, and sometimes yelling at us to get out of the way or whatever issue needed to be addressed that moment, she also kept cool, calm, and collected for the most part in the kitchen. I loved watching her methodically cut meat – like the turkey breast or the ham – on her meat slicer. She even let me try it once! (something I am sure would not be allowed these days). For my wedding, she gave me a meat slicer – a cherished and thoughtful gift, and she was always so thoughtful underneath her sometimes tough exterior. 

Hazel’s Love

HazelSpeaking of weddings, Miss Hazel made the effort to attend my wedding along with both of my brothers’ weddings. It was so immensely touching to all of us that she would travel so far to be with us on our special days. She was like a part of the family. 

I remember when my grandfather was still the active Director at camp, he and Hazel worked closely together to plan the menu each week. She would sit in his office and go through the meals day by day with him, and he would make note of the food items needed and then personally place the food orders. 

These meetings were more than just business, though. He and Hazel had a deep friendship that developed over the years, and often they would sit and talk about other things – life, camp, family. She told me how much these meetings meant to her, and how much my grandfather’s friendship meant to her. He loved her like family and took great care of her in many ways. 

I know that many, many alums felt the same way – that Miss Hazel was like family, like a second mom or grandmother to them. 

Hazel’s Life and Family

But what was Hazel’s life like outside of camp? What was her story before Camp Alleghany? We know she was just as instrumental at Episcopal High School for about the same number of years she was at Alleghany, but I feel privileged to have learned more about her background and to have met her dear family members when I attended her funeral a few weeks ago, as she stayed fairly private about her home life while at camp. 

Hazel was born in North Carolina and was the oldest of seven children in her family. She attended school through 11th grade and then moved to Richmond to live with cousins, where she met her husband. They had one daughter, Renee, and they moved to Washington, DC where she lived for the remainder of her life.

In DC she held various food service jobs until ultimately landing her longtime career roles at Episcopal and Alleghany. Her daughter had two beautiful daughters of her own, and Hazel’s life revolved around these three women. She cared deeply for her daughter and granddaughters, as well as hosts of siblings, nieces, nephews, and cousins. 

Strong and sassy, she was a breast cancer survivor, and certainly endured other hardships in life but always held her head high. She loved deeply, was passionate about her family and work, and kept her sense of humor and positive attitude until the end. 

Remembering Hazel

Hazel touched so many lives in so many capacities. We asked on our social media channels for anyone to share memories or thoughts about Hazel, and I have compiled several below. These truly capture her spirit and soul, her love and kindness, her strength and heart.

Hazel loved all her Ghany Girls and I hope she knew how much we loved her! Her laugh and eye roll were the best, and I am blessed she was in my life!

She was one in a million. When we were far away from home, she always made us feel like were at home. I have so many memories of my Ghany Girl years, but sharing time with Hazel will always be among my most cherished…she made an indelible and lasting impact on this heart and I will carry a little piece of her with me forever.

Some of the best advice I’ve been given has come from chats with Hazel on her bench.

I cherished her pearls of wisdom. 

Such a blessing to have worked in her kitchen, shared conversations and great hugs. I was so happy every year whether working or visiting, to run to the kitchen and give her the biggest hug. To leave the green team tent and see her every day was a blessing. Her smile was the best and with a very heavy heart I say Rest In Peace my dear friend. Loved her to the moon.

I will always treasure my days hopping in Alleghany, and getting to know Hazel. Because of her, I am a super efficient, corn shucker… Will always remember the lesson she gave us one afternoon outside the kitchen. 

Hazel’s first summer was my first year as a hopper- she was tough but loving to us- and gave the best hugs ever. I have nothing but fond memories of hopping in her kitchen and enjoying her delicious food.

So much love to her family for allowing her to be part of ours for so many summers. She was magic!

I loved working with Hazel when I was a member of the Green Team and also as a student at Episcopal High School. Man did she enjoy a good laugh.

Christmas is my favourite time of year – when it was Christmas in July I was so excited at the thought of being in America and trying eggnog for the first time, Miss Hazel welcomed me into her kitchen and taught me how to make it from scratch, we drank it by the fire pit that night. I will always remember her smile and warm welcome.

What a soul of strength and kindness. She is the greatest example of a wonderful woman guiding and loving and protecting and inspiring so many young women over many years. The true example of sharing her gifts and talents and love to all those around her. She will be missed on this earth, but Heaven will be all the better with her there. Love to you always, Hazel, from all the Hoppers of ‘85.

In Memoriam

HazelWhen Hazel retired in 2012, we dedicated the kitchen to her and named it Hazel’s Mine, and we created the Hazel Mines Golden Hopper Award in her name, given each year at our end-of-summer Banquet Awards Ceremony. These small gestures have kept her spirit alive at Alleghany and in our hearts since she left camp, and will continue to do so now that she has left the earth.

The loss of Miss Hazel has left a hole in many of our hearts, and we will all miss her terribly, but her legacy and spirit live on as she has touched our lives deeply. Rest in Peace, Miss Hazel, we love you! You will always be a part of the Alleghany family.