Woman celebrates 100th birthday on Pearl Harbor Day

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RUMFORD — Birthday wishes came from state and national senators for Hazel Kennedy — a member of the Women’s Army Corps during World War II who turned 100 Thursday, the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Seated in a wheelchair at Rumford Community Home, where she is a resident, Hazel was honored with gifts and cards by friends and family. 

Judy Kennedy, Hazel’s daughter-in-law, read birthday wishes from U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a card signed by members of the 128th Maine Legislature, and a letter from state Sen. Lisa Keim of Dixfield.

“Your lifetime of service to your community and your nation, from the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps in World War II to the founding of the Girl Scouts in Mexico stand out as a shining example of a life well-lived,” Collins wrote.

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Sheryl Briggs, a former legislator and retiring executive secretary in Mexico, and Mexico Board of Selectmen Chairman Richie Philbrick presented Hazel with a plaque and certificate on behalf of the town.

Gloria Patneaude, president of the Swasey-Torrey American Legion Unit 100 Auxiliary, presented Hazel with a card and flowers. Patneaude said Hazel has been a member of the Dixfield Auxiliary since 1939.

Family members said Hazel is known for her quick wit and keen sense of humor.

“You never had to wonder about what Hazel was thinking,” Judy Kennedy said. “She spoke her mind.”

And so she did. Asked if she knew how old she was on this day, Hazel responded, “I don’t give a damn!”

That brought laughter from those in the room.

As for the bombing of Pearl Harbor on her 24th birthday, Hazel “never really said much about it,” according to her daughter-in-law.

Hazel’s brother, Donald Savage, was killed in action in World War II after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“She always knew that part of it, but she never elaborated, to me, anyway, about being born on that day,” Judy Kennedy said.

Savage was deployed with the U.S. Air Force in England, as a top turret gunner, and died as a tail gunner in the fall of 1943 over the English Channel.

Her son, Andy Kennedy, said Hazel was with the Girl Scouts for 25 years. “She did a lot in this area. A lot of people remember her.”

According to a bio by Judy, Hazel was born Dec. 7, 1917, in Rangeley, moved to Dixfield in the seventh grade and graduated from Dixfield High School in 1935. Hazel worked in Rangeley at Clara’s Tea Room, where her first tip was 50 cents. She also worked as a waitress at Elliott’s Diner in Dixfield.

She married Linwood L. Kennedy on May 3, 1946, in Farmington. They moved to Carthage and then to Dixfield, where they raised three children, Donald (named in honor of Hazel’s brother), Andy and Trudy.

The family moved to Mexico in 1952, where Hazel resided until 2016.

Besides founding the Girl Scouts in Mexico, Hazel was an integral part of the Mexico Mother’s Club and the Junior Mother’s Club, which is still going strong. She was also a member of the Order of the Eastern Star.

Hazel joined her husband at Big Island Pond Camps in Coburn Gore, waiting tables while her husband worked as a Registered Maine Guide. She continued working there long after Linwood passed away. One of the saddest days of her life was when she had to retire in 1991 for medical reasons.

Hazel was also very active in candlepin bowling leagues in Mexico and Rumford from 1980 to 2009. She kept scores for her league by hand for many of those years.

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Carole Freeman of Mexico unfolds a birthday card for Hazel Kennedy during Kennedy’s 100th birthday party at the Rumford Community Home on Thursday. “She was a devil,” Freeman said of her longtime friend. “She loved a good story. She loved a good joke and she loved to have a good time,” said Freeman, Kennedy’s former hairdresser. The “beefcake” birthday card was from Rae Shields of Andover. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Gloria Patneaude, right, wishes Hazel Kennedy happy birthday during Kennedy’s 100th birthday party at the Rumford Community Home on Thursday. Patneaude is the president of the Swasey Torrey American Legion Post 100 women’s auxiliary, o which Kennedy is a lifetime member. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

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