Hazel – a brief tribute by David Beswick given at her funeral 17 December 2019

I have been unsure whether I should speak today, but there are a few things I want to say that might not otherwise be said, concerning her extended family, her life and her faith.

Usually at a funeral there are many relatives from a person’s family of origin. As Hazel left her native place of Cheltenham in England in 1957 her people there are separated from us by both time and distance, and by death, but Hazel was an especially caring person who was good at maintaining relationships over great spans of time and space. I want to include her Barton family with us today by naming a few of them. My first wife Joan and I met Hazel’s parents Clarence and Minnie Barton and her sister Pam in 1961 when we called on them in England on our way back from America. In more recent years Hazel and I visited her brother Hugh and his wife Joyce several times. They have all since passed on, but we do have with us today her nephew Martin Barton, his wife Judy and daughter their Lucy who have come across from Perth WA where they now live. I have also received messages by text and email from Barton relatives in England, from Hazel’s niece Kathy Young, her nephew Christopher Barton, her Goddaughter and cousin Julie Spencer and her cousin Mary Chatterley. We include them together with other distant friends, including Don Kimmelman in US who writes, ‘For me Hazel and Ron were very special, dear friends.’

The Barton relatives represent what I call the first quarter or phase of Hazel’s life which extends from her childhood growing up in Cheltenham, being trained as a nurse in Birmingham, and emigrating the US where she met and married Ron Williams in 1959 when she was 24. I was best man at their wedding. I think then of the 24 years of her marriage to Ron as the second phase of her life: some years working as a nurse and having two children in the US, then two more born during the 16 years in Papua-New Guinea and finally three years in Australia when Ron was a  minister at Croydon, where he died suddenly in 1983. A third phase of her life, as I see it, was the 18 years in which she was proud to be single, when she was professionally employed as a nurse and manager of health centres and aged care facilities, or other welfare work. When my wife Joan died in 2001 Hazel was the last person to visit her. Hazel retired in 2002. Then began the 17 years of our marriage, the fourth quarter of Hazel’s life. We travelled a good deal and enjoyed a new life, but she was diagnosed with cancer eight years ago. It has been a long struggle and she was courageous throughout.

I want, finally, to pay a tribute to Hazel in something that was known to me in the four quarters of her life but especially in the last quarter, and that is her strong independent character as a woman of faith. There were two different aspects to her Christian faith. There was an inward aspect of personal devotion that not many people would have known directly, and an outward aspect of commitment in word and deed to social justice and the welfare of underprivileged people.  On the first, the inner qualities, I was able to share in our regular prayers and discussion, but I don’t want to say too much. What I can say is that, Hazel being a person of complete integrity, there was no contradiction between her inward and outward natures: an act of faith could as likely have been a kind action as a word of prayer, or a big commitment like going to New Guinea with Ron. There was nothing conformist or conventional about her faith; in it she was as adventurous as in other aspects of her rich and varied life. In this I have admired her much as I have loved her deeply.