Knickerbocker's Hazel Hollenbach celebrates 102 years

Mayor Debbie Sutherland reads a proclamation honoring Hazel Hollenbach.

Imagine living in Cleveland when the first Model T rolled off the assembly line. Hazel Hollenbach, who turned 102 years old on April 3, was born in 1908, the year the Model T was introduced. An elegant, charming woman whose eyes sparkle when she is engaged in conversation, Hazel embraces a positive attitude toward life.

With her stylish short haircut and soft pastel blouse, I found it difficult to believe Hazel was anywhere near 102 years old.  A passionate spirit and zest for life radiate from her tiny frame. Hazel is truly a remarkable woman.

Widowed for the first time in 1929, Hazel was left to raise her two young children alone. During World War II she worked the night shift at a Cleveland bomber plant. She also worked for Jubilee Catering, the Oak Ridge Senior Center and Gerber's Nursery school.

Always resourceful, Hazel enrolled in beauty school and eventually opened Hazel's Beauty Shop in North Olmsted. A true entrepreneur, creativity and versatility have played an important part in Hazel's life. On August 31, 1946, Hazel married Al Hollenbach, an engineer for the railroad.

With railroad passes earned through Al's job, the couple traveled extensively by train, enjoying the scenic wonders of our country and Mexico. Later they spent winters on Florida's Gulf Coast, relaxing and enjoying their retirement. After Al's death in 1969, Hazel moved to the Knickerbocker Apartments.

"I was one of the first to move in to the Knickerbocker," she says proudly. "I love the community, and parties and friends - I have had a good life here!" 

It is clear Haze enjoys life...her large family, her friends and neighbors keep her busy and content. No regrets for Hazel. She lives life to the fullest.

Cokie Roberts, author of "Founding Mothers," dedicated her book to "the women in my family, particularly my mother, who told the stories we call history." Hazel, many thanks for sharing your stories and for being such a vibrant part of our community. Having lived and been a part of American history for over a century, you truly inspire us all!

Dianne Borowski lives in Bay Village.

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Volume 2, Issue 7, Posted 3:55 PM, 03.31.2010