Hazel Viola (Darling) Brekke, 99, is off on her next adventure, dancing in heaven with her cowboy. Hazel passed away at the Rosebud County Nursing Home the morning of May 9th, 2023, from natural causes, showing her strength of will until the end.
She was born January 25, 1924 in Wallace, South Dakota, the sixth of seven children to Minnie Mae (Eggers) Darling and Ora Lester Darling. Hazel was raised and educated in the Bradley, South Dakota area.
Hazel married Arthur (Art) Brekke on November 14, 1942 at the Calvary Lutheran Church outside of Bradley SD. After being a farmer's wife and helping run Art’s pool hall in Bradley, Art and Hazel moved to Hingham, Montana in December 1955. They moved on to Havre, then Rudyard, then back to Hingham, which was truly home for Hazel. Because of the incredible support of friends and family, Hazel was able to stay in her home until her 97th birthday. She then moved to Forsyth to be with her daughter. In typical Hazel fashion, after living with John and Shelly for nine months, she said, "I'm moving to the nursing home so John and Shelly can have a life."
Hazel was a hard worker. The only job with which she struggled was being a censor to Art’s jokes, “Oh Art!” As if raising six kids was not enough, Hazel compiled an impressive resume. Her work adventures included helping run a farm and pool hall with Art, working in the kitchen of Sacred Heart Hospital in Havre, being employed at an upholstery shop in Rudyard, caring for the Hingham School and its kids as a janitor, cooking and driving truck for a custom harvest crew, loving children as a babysitter, and protecting democracy as an election judge,
Hazel's kitchen always seemed to have a pot of coffee going, and a chocolate sheet cake, donuts, cookies or cinnamon rolls ready for coffee company. There was always room for one more in Hazel's house. She and Art treasured their time camping in the Bear Paws, dancing, bowling, and playing cards. Their sense of youthfulness came out often, and trick or treating at Halloween showed fun was not just for kids. Her grandchildren loved to play in the playhouse with her and were thrilled to see her newest birthday cake creation, which she made for them each year. Sewing Barbie doll clothes and patching jeans just seemed to be part of being a grandma for her. There was a poem or saying for every occasion tucked in her memory; “Fie for shame to quarrel so” was recited to a deserving many. From her hospital bed she was still reciting one of her favorite poems, "Papa's Letter," at 99 years old. Hazel single handedly tried to keep the post office in business by sending cards and letters to friends and relatives. Known for her spunk, she had a fierce streak of independence and a love of long walks. As long as her eyesight allowed, she was a voracious reader and jigsaw puzzle master. Once her eyesight diminished, books on tape and a constant stream of friends helped fill her days.
Hazel was preceded in death by her husband, Arthur J. Brekke; her parents, Minnie Mae and Ora Darling; sisters, Beulah Loesch, Pearl Hansen Puppel, Mary Hotzler, and Gladys Raynen Pies; infant sister, Dorothy Darling; brother, Emery “Brick” Darling; great-granddaughter, Jaden Huebsch; and daughter at heart, Joyce Borlaug.
Hazel is survived by her daughter, Shirley (Jim) Muller of Billings; son, Gary (Kathy) Brekke of Hingham; daughter, Sharon (Tony) Watson of East Helena; son, Dick (Joan) Brekke of Townsend; daughter, Shelly (John) Schnitzmeier of Forsyth; estranged daughter, Cheryl” Sue” (Dick) Hansen of Gildford; fifteen grandchildren; forty-two great grandchildren; one great-great grandson; several nieces and nephews; special friend, Sharon Spicher; and a community of friends who loved her.
A service to celebrate Hazel's life will be held on June 2, 2023 at the New Beginnings Lutheran Church in Rudyard, Montana at 2 p.m. Memorials can be made to Hill County Ambulance Service of Rudyard, P.O. Box 111 Rudyard, 59540; New Beginnings Lutheran Church in Rudyard, PO Box 106, 59540. The Montana Talking Book Library, 1201 11th Ave. Helena, MT 59620; or donor's choice.