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Hazel Englund Celebrates 100 Years in Haines

Happy Birthday Hazel


Hazel Englund picking blueberries.

Photo courtesy of Mikki Chandler

My Grandma turns one hundred years old this September. Hazel Englund was born in Haines, Alaska, where she still resides today and is a true Alaskan Sourdough with an amazing story.


Hazel Englund at home in Haines.

Photos courtesy of Mikki Chandler


In the early 1900s Hazel’s parents, Henry and Minnie Vermeire, set off to Alaska with dreams of being successful farmers. They landed in Haines and raised nine children by selling potatoes.


Hazel with three of her four children: Keitsie, Emily, and Josephine

Photo courtesy of Hazel Englund


Hazel (far right) with children Glen and Josephine.

Photo courtesy of Hazel Englund


Hazel and her family.

Photo courtesy of Hazel Englund


Hazel (far right) in front of the Road Commission office in Haines.

Photo courtesy of Hazel Englund


Growing up on a farm was a lot of hard work. After farm chores were done the kids would find odd jobs. Once Hazel and her sister Clara shaved their heads and called each other Pat and Mike so they could work on a construction crew.

Being a young lady in a small town with an Army Base did have its advantages. There were many dances and plenty of fellas calling on Hazel. My Grandma was twenty-two before she married as she wasn’t sure she wanted to be tied down, but Niles Englund won her heart.

In 1938 Hazel married Niles and they had four children: Glen, Keitsie, Josephine, and Emily. Hazel and Niles lived in a shack two miles out of town until they completed their house out-of-pocket and with no electricity in 1946. Thank goodness Niles was an expert carpenter because Hazel still lives in that house today.

In the mid-1900s jobs were scarce in Alaska and many times the men worked remote. Hazel was a housewife who worked as hard as her husband. Gardening wasn’t a hobby and people didn’t hunt and fish for fun. Everything was made from scratch, and during the winter months Hazel made her children’s clothes. There is a two-hundred-foot clothesline off the front porch that has held four generations of apparel.

When times were tough Hazel and Niles would pan for gold in Porcupine. In 1978 they panned enough to buy a truck that we still drive today.

Hazel is a wise woman who always lived within her means. She takes care of what she has and is very proud of it. One of the things you can count on is her house being exactly the same every time you visit. Grandma uses serving spoons and a rolling pin that were given to her by a military cook over seventy years ago. She still cooks on a 1950 wood-burning Monarch stove that has baked some of the best bread in the world. There is a mirror in the living room that came from Montgomery Ward in the 50s, and I’m pretty sure her berry picking buckets are older than me. When you go to Grandma’s you treat her and her stuff with respect.


Hazel Englund ‘head down and butt up’ in her garden—the same garden and pose she’s had for the last seventy years.

Photo courtesy of Mikki Chandler


In the summer Hazel can be found head down and butt up in the garden. She is the sweet, cooking, baking, adoring Grandma, but she is also quick with a dirty joke and readily shares her opinion.


Hazel Englund saying “Hi!” to Alaska Business Monthly readers.

Photo courtesy of Mikki Chandler


I told my Grandma in August that she looked great. She responded with, “Life is good unless you weaken.” I learned a lot from her, and my memories are rich with simple pleasures. She has made the best with what she had—family is always first and she is content with the life she has lived.


Mikki Chandler is Hazel Englund’s granddaughter. She is the mother of a fourth generation Alaskan and she’s trying to teach her daughter the values her grandmother taught her. Chandler works for BP Alaska, proudly supporting oilfields just as her dad, her husband, and her stepchildren have. She says, “We all love everything Alaska has to offer and I’m hoping there will be many more generations of Alaskans in our family.”


This article first appeared in the September 2016 print edition of Alaska Business Monthly.


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