Sheridan resident to observe 100 years
By Andrea Isaac Adams
Hazel Boynton Ware makes reaching 100-years-old look easy. With a calm manner and clear voice, Ware describes what growing up in the early 1900s was like as the only child of Minnie and Pliney Boynton, a millennium baby born on July 25, 1901.
Minnie Boynton was pregnant and visiting her family on their homestead farm in Choctaw, Okla., when she received word that her husband had contracted smallpox. Minnie was forced to remain with her family in order to protect herself and the child she was carrying from the disease that claimed countless lives, including that of her husband's, before widespread vaccination against the disease was commenced five years after Pliney Boynton's death in 1905.
Hazel was born in her grandparent's two-story log cabin nestled on 80 acres of prime farming land in Oklahoma. Her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Z.T. Sims, were well-known people in Choctaw, Okla., who ran a grocery store, among other things.
"I remember my mother kept a quilt at the back of that store for me to nap on," said Ware fondly. "She'd make a pallet on the counter and put something on either side so I couldn't roll off."
Minnie and her daughter remained in Choctaw for six years before her mother remarried and moved with her new husband to Oklahoma City, Okla. Ware attended Putnam Heights school there until graduating from the eighth grade. At age 15 she moved back in with her grandparents and took a series of jobs that she enjoyed very much, such as substituting in a bank when a worker couldn't make it in.
"My boss told my grandpa, 'Hazel does an excellent job. She never makes a mistake!'," laughed Ware. She also worked at a local YMCA, then at a Halliburten's Department Store and later inspected motion pictures for flaws.
"I had to look at each frame, and if there was something wrong with one, I'd have to patch it," said Ware, who remembered cutting the flawed frame out of the reel-to-reel and then gluing a new frame in its place.
At age 16, Hazel's grandfather bought her a new car, an "Overland Chummy." Z.T. Sims let his granddaughter take him on a ride through Choctaw in her new, sporty wheels.
"I didn't know how to shift gears, so we'd drive by and people'd yell, 'Shift gears, shift gears!', but grandpa was hard of hearing, and he'd just say, 'Fine, fine. You're doing fine!'," laughed Ware at the memory. A neighbor finally did teach Hazel to shift gears, and within a year Hazel was so impressive at driving her Chummy that she had managed to catch the eye of the good-looking Homer Ware.
"He proposed to me in that car," smiled Ware, and the two were married the following year on March 31, 1918.
The couple had five children: Noel, Gwendolyn, Ron, Don and Gene, with 22 years age difference between the oldest and the youngest. Homer began farming corn, potatoes, oat, wheat, pigs and cows, remembered Ware, and they lived in Delaware, Okla., Arkansas and California raising children and produce along the way. Together the couple also established a laundry at Rogers, Ark., and a furniture store.
Homer and Hazel were married 73 years before his death in 1991 at the age of 94.
"He was a good man, a good husband," said Ware, with tears in her eyes as she spoke of the memory of him.
Although Ware is an Oklahoma native, she has been a Sheridan resident for 11 years. She and Homer moved to Sheridan to be close to her son and daughter-in-law, Ron and Mary Ware, when Homer's health began failing. One of the first friends she made after moving here was Barbara Loftis, who operated Barbara's Family Hair Care at the time.
"I remember she called me and said, 'I'm new here, but I sure do need a hair cut. Do you come and get people?' That's how I met her," remembered Loftis, "and we've been friends ever since. You can't help but love her, she's so sweet."
Ware's family has been broadcasted far and wide across the United States with members in Hawaii, Oregon, and Missouri. She has 23 grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and one great-great granddaughter. The Ware family lineage includes French counts and countesses and Jerusalem kings.
Ware remains in incredible health, which she attributes to good genetics.
"I've never smoked or drank - well, I never drank more than a toddy when sick, anyway," said Ware. "I have very few (health) complaints. I'm just old and tired, that's all!," laughed Ware. "I need my naps!"
"Life's been pretty fair to me," said Ware. "I've had some good times, I've had some sad times ... it was awful hard to lose my husband, and my daughter. But I'd like to tell people, marriage is so important. You need to stay faithful to your husbands, to your wives."
Ware will be celebrating her 100th birthday this Saturday, July 21 with family and friends in Sheridan.