Hazel Engstrom Venables died at the age of 92 at the Franciscan Hospice House in Tacoma on October 22, 2013 following a brief hospitalization. Born December 11, 1920 in Braham, Minnesota, Hazel Matilda Engstrom was one of four children born to Olaf and Hilda Engstrom. She met her husband Leslie Venables while a student at the University of Minnesota, where she graduated with a BA in Nursing in 1942. Hazel and Les married on February 19, 1943 in Minneapolis. In 1947, Hazel and Les gave birth to a disabled child, the first of four daughters. That challenge prompted a move to Washington in their quest to find adequate treatment, education, and community acceptance for disabled children and adults. They dedicated their time and energy to making a difference in the lives of countless disabled children and their families throughout Washington. Hazel advocated in the early 1960's for education programs for the disabled in neighborhood public schools in Snohomish County. She was instrumental in starting a number of programs for disabled children and adults in the county, including the Little Green, White and Red Schoolhouses, Sherwood Learning Center and Quilceda Community Services. Despite her advanced age, Hazel continued to attend board meetings in the last months of her life. Over her lifetime, she volunteered thousands of hours as a recognized leader for the disabled community, and as a member of PEO, the Soroptimist's and the Silvana Cinderellas. In addition, Hazel worked as a public health nurse, taught coursework at Everett Community College, and she and Les raised their daughters. Together, they built by hand their home in Stanwood and a family cabin on Guemes Island. Hazel was an avid gardener, bird watcher, and seamstress and remained a capable, active, and fiercely independent person up until the time of her death. There was never any challenge too big or too difficult for her to take on. She was a woman of diverse talents and activities and did not shy away from life's difficulties. Her absence will be felt deeply by family and friends alike. Hazel was preceded in death by her husband, Les, in 2009, and her two sisters, Anne Lively and Clare McCaslin. She is survived by her brother, Paul (Mary) Engstrom; and her daughters, Leslie Venables, Karen (Bob) Harper, Vicki (Laurin) Blacken, and Jodi Coy; six grandchildren, Hans Erik and Nels Olin Harper (Charli), Lars Blacken (Jun) and Kylie Evenhus (Grant), Garrison and Gillian Coy; four great grandchildren, Maya and Cameron Blacken, Addilyn and Benjamin Evenhus; and many nieces and nephews. Memorial donations may be made in Hazel's name to Quilceda Community Services, firstname.lastname@example.org or the Minerva Scholarship Fund, email@example.com. The family will have a private memorial on Guemes Island. A public celebration of her life will be announced at a future date.
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Published in The Herald (Everett) on Nov. 10, 2013