Hazel J. Nitcher, 98, passed away on March 10, 2018 at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. She was born October 21, 1919 in rural Franklin County, Kansas to Walter and Ethel Johnson. Hazel attended the one-room Boyd Grade School, graduated from Pomona High School and then from Emporia State Teachers College. Upon graduation she first taught at Berryton (KS) High School, followed by an administrative position at Washburn University and then at Clark’s Secretarial School in Topeka. She married her childhood sweetheart, Keith L. Nitcher, at her parents’ home in Pomona on April 18, 1945. He preceded her in death on November 6, 2010. Hazel and Keith had four children: Sandra Savell (Charles), Bob (Jan), John (Katy), and Ron (Cindy). Hazel also leaves seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Hazel was a homemaker for her family; she was a devoted wife and mother; she was active in her children’s schools, as well as in Scouts and 4-H, and in her church. Years later, with her children’s children, Hazel was an equally committed grandmother – making each newborn a quilt; reading to and rocking them, walking with them in gardens, teaching them their numbers and letters, and doing special projects, like making Christmas gingerbread houses.
Through Keith, Hazel was an active member of the KU faculty community, supporting, among others, the performing arts, the Flying Jayhawks and athletics. After a long day teaching, she would assume her second role as Keith’s companion, attending evening plays, recitals and performances at the University. Hazel was a strong supporter of and advocate for the KU Women’s Basketball Team, and not only cheered the players on, but brought them home baked treats. On occasion she was asked to substitute in as an emergency caregiver or surrogate mom when one of these talented young women was injured or became ill. She always was grateful to Marian Washington for being allowed to contribute so fully to that program, and to play a small role in the players’ lives.
Hazel had returned to teaching by the mid-1960’s first as a substitute and then teaching full-time first at Sunset Hill Elementary and, a year later, at Central Junior High School in Lawrence. For many years her coursework was typing and business; but what she really taught was responsibility and self-reliance, as well as discovering and then realizing potential. She was dedicated to her students, some of whom years later occasionally would contact her just to “check in.” Hazel’s heart was truly her classroom. She was proud of her association with the teachers at Central, and treasured her friendships with many of them, which continued for the rest of her life.
She loved her neighbors, and they loved her.
Hazel and Keith were members of the First Baptist Church, and after she retired, Hazel was given the opportunity to continue to serve by helping with the Food Pantry and being a link in the Church’s prayer chain. It gave her great satisfaction in her last years to feel that, even as she had to curtail her activities as her energy waned, she still was a part of that wonderful group. Hazel believed in God; and she believed in people and in their goodness. She aspired to Heaven, but every day she was thankful for dwelling in the heaven on earth that was her life.
Her children recall that in the early 1960’s Hazel had a friend who was so impressed with her driving and particularly her ability to parallel park into tight spaces, that the friend on several occasions said, “Hazel, you’re a Wonder!”
Funeral services are scheduled for Monday, March 19 at 10:00 at the First Baptist Church of Lawrence, 1330 Kasold Drive, Lawrence.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to The First Baptist Church Building Fund or to the KU Cancer Center and may be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th Street, Lawrence, KS 66044.