Member Spotlight

Hazel Treece:

Teaching just came natural to her

Hazel Treece was born to be a teacher.

She played teacher as a child, and substituted a lot in public schools when she grew up. In 1974, she opened the FBCA preschool for 4- and 5-year-olds, and worked in the church’s nursery for 25 years. She didn’t have the formal training to be a teacher, but she had the heart.

“I went one year to (the University of) Alabama,” she said. “I was pursuing a home economics degree but had to study chemistry to get it. I saw words I’d never seen in my life.”

She never dreamed she would live to be 95. “My people died in their 70s, and I knew I would not live past my 70s,” she said. “But here I am.”

Born May 22, 1927, Hazel lived all of her life in Ashville, most of it in the same house. She joined FBCA when she was 10 or 12, and it’s the only church of which she was ever been a member. “A group of us girls were at a revival at FBCA,” she said, recalling her salvation experience. “Sometimes revivals were two weeks long, with morning and night services, back then. The oldest in our group said, ‘Let’s join the church today.’ We all agreed. She just kept standing there and I moved out (of the pews). I was so glad I did that because I knew I was not just following her.”

As a young person, she always preferred to be at church, and always enjoyed teaching. “My mother taught a Sunday School class and I subbed for her once, even though I was a student in her class. I was probably 12 years old at the time.”

She has served FBCA children in just about every capacity, including Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, Sunbeams and Mission Friends. “I loved VBS best,” she said. “Working with kids was therapy for me.”

She left FBCA’s preschool for three years to teach at God’s Kids, a preschool operated by FBC-Springville. She came back to FBCA and probably taught a total of 30-40 years here, including the years in the church’s nursery. She was also a substitute teacher in Ashville’s three public schools for several years. “I loved teaching,” she said. “I loved working with the kids, especially those that needed special help.”

Despite all of the teaching she has done, the only “degree” she ever got was not the one she would had planned. “I got my M.R.S. degree,” she said, laughing. “I never dreamed I’d marry Jack Treece, though.”

Jack asked her out while at a basketball game in Etowah County, where he lived. Both were in high school, and knew each other from his visits with his grandparents in Ashville. When she got home from the game, she called him and declined. “He was not happy,” she recalls. After high school, Jack went into the Navy, then moved to Ashville when he was discharged. “He just came to see me one day,” she said. “Our first date was to a movie in Ashville. I had no idea I would end up marrying him.”

The couple had three children: Howard Treece of Gadsden; Barbara Elders of Ashville; and Elizabeth Hunt of Cullman. Barbara and Elizabeth got a bit of the teaching bug from their mom. Barbara, an FBCA member who is married to Neal Elders, taught at Ashville Middle School for several years. Elizabeth, widow of John Hunt (son of FBCA member Billy Hunt and the late Shirley Hunt) was a teacher but now works in administration at Wallace State Community College in Hanceville. Hazel has seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Jack, a deacon and leader at FBCA for many years, died three years ago.

Her main hobby was ripping wallpaper and paint from her walls. She did this so many times she believed that the next owners of her house would find the place amusing. “I went to an art class at the church once and saw how pretty other people’s paintings were,” she said. “Mine looked like walls!” Her parents were in the mercantile business in downtown Ashville, and would come home from work not knowing exactly where the furniture would be. “Other people have asked me to decorate their homes, but I can’t,” she said. “I have to do what I like.”

Hazel doesn’t get out as much as she used to, except for lunch with her kids. The church sends her dinner on Wednesday nights and that gives her someone to chat with. “Barbara and Elizabeth are always bringing me food, too,” she said. “It’s not that I don’t have food, but I don’t like to cook.”

If she could live her life over again, she would remember to ask God for guidance more often. “Just because you are a Christian does not mean you always know what to do or say,” she said. “There were times I should have called on God before acting.”

A message she saw on a coffee mug may sum up her philosophy. It ended with, “I hope I have blessed one child’s life.”

“That’s the way I feel,” she said.

— By Elaine Hobson Miller

Editor’s Note: Hazel Treece passed away June 4, 2022, just two weeks after her 95th birthday. This article has been modified in verb tenses to reflect that she is no longer in our midst.