Hazel Ophelia Matthews Turner was born in Ozark, AL, on Nov. 6, 1924, to the Late Rev. W.D. Matthews and Lucille Smith Matthews. Five girls completed this happy family circle.
She was valedictorian of the first high school for Blacks in Ozark (Ozark Colored School). In 1942, she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Commercial Dietetics from Tuskegee Institute (currently known as Tuskegee University). She received her Master’s Degree in Middle Education (Reading Specialist and School Administration) from Western Carolina University. A retired educator and administrator, Mrs. Turner has taught at all grade levels, including Adult Education. She taught reading at Mars Hill College in North Carolina and also taught in the reading lab at Western Carolina. She also worked with the Model Clinical Teacher Education Program at the University of North Carolina in Asheville. While working in the Asheville City School System, she set up the “First Highs Reading Tab” program in the system, trained and supervised teachers in the area of reading, was Social Studies Supervisor, Title I Director, Grants Project writer, worked in personnel, conducted staff development activities, substituted for principals, organized and supervised parent activities and served as a liaison person between the school administration and the community.
As a supervisor of Health and Nutrition, she co-authored a nutrition program that became a model for the North Carolina School Nutrition Department. Following her retirement from the school system, she taught at Asheville-Buncombe Technical College, where she served as Vice-President of the Asheville City School Board.
Mrs. Turner once served as a Past Matron and Past Grand District Deputy of the Order of the Eastern Star of North Carolina. While living there, she was awarded “Zeta of the Year.” Upon her return to Ozark, she joined the Order of the Eastern Star, Pride of AL Chapter #60. She was a life member of the NAACP, where she served on the executive board. Her hobbies include reading, writing, speaking, planning and organizing church and community activities.
Twenty-five years ago, she returned to Ozark to care for her elderly father and joined her family church, St. Mark A.M.E. Zion Church. She served faithfully as a member of the Steward Board, was the Sunday School Superintendent and teacher, President of the Missionary Society, Life Member’s Council, Supply Department and Lay Council. She was also an exhorter in the A.M.E. Zion Church. Her civic duties include: A member of the Daffodil Garden Club, Dale County Democratic Conference, the Ozark-Dale County Genealogical & Historical Society, Ozark-Dale County Alzheimer’s Support Group, and Friends of the Library. She also served on the committee to help design a flag for the City of Ozark. She has spearheaded a Women’s History Month program at St. Mark for over 18 years.
She was an active member of the Coffee County Toastmasters Club in Enterprise, AL, where she spoke regularly. At the age of 95, she was still full of wisdom and ideas that have been used throughout the Wiregrass. Mrs. Turner has been a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. for 66 years. She is a charter member of Chi Upsilon Zeta Chapter in Enterprise, AL. She and her daughter, Deborah, were inducted into the State of Alabama’s Hall of Fame for Zeta, as well as the State Legacy Club. She was also initiated as a Dove (members with 50 years of service).
She was one of the first honorees of Ozark’s Black History Month Program, the first African American President of the Ozark-Dale County Genealogical & Historical Society, and the first African American President of the Friends of the Library. She spent many years volunteering at the Dale County Public Library and working with Mayor Bob Bunting.
Hazel was known as the “lady with the tape recorder.” Under her presidency of the Ozark-Dale County Genealogical Society, she encouraged members of the African American community to write their family history. This information was published in a book entitled, “The Dale County History.”.
On Thursday, June 25, 2020, while a patient at Dale Medical Center (Ozark), Hazel responded to the call of our Heavenly Father and quietly went to be with the Lord. She was preceded in death by her parents, her husband, Andrew Turner, and three sisters, Rachel Gibson, Smithie Brew and Betty Thompson.
Loving memories will always be cherished by her children, Calvin C. Beale (Nora), Aiea, HI; William (WD) Beale, Ozark, AL and Deborah Beale Benton, Enterprise, AL.
Grandchildren: Edwin Beale (Stacey), Cary, NC; Renee Clayton (Al), Arlington, VA; Michael D. Benton, Atlanta, GA and Michelle D. Benton, Atlanta, GA.
Great grandchildren: Carter Taylor, Atlanta, GA; Cameron Beale, Cary, NC; Brittani Martin (Joshua), Alexandria, VA; Marsalis Carlos (Deborah), Chesapeake, VA; Myles Carlos, Alexandria, VA
Great-great grandchildren: Zuri, Marlee and London Martin, Alexandria, VA; Zahra Carlos, Chesapeake, VA
Loving sister: Nancy McFarlin, Ozark, AL
Loving aunt: Gussie Jackson, Ozark, AL
Devoted nieces: Yolanda McFarlin, Renorda McFarlin and Bethel Terry, Ozark, AL
Devoted nephews: Daron Brew, Ozark, AL; Roy Thompson (Shari), Riverdale, Ga.; Arthur Ray Bakari, Newark, NJ; and Perry (Latonya) Bakari, Newark, NJ
Devoted great niece, Victoria Smith, Ozark, AL
Devoted great nephew, Isaiah Terry, Ozark, AL
A host of nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.
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