Hazles celebrate 60 years of ‘blessings’

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By Ron Benningfield

New Year’s Eve, 1954, marked not only the beginning of a new year for Charles “Red” and Phyllis Hazle, but also the start of a new life together as husband and wife.

“We’ve been blessed,” Phyllis said as she looked back over the 60 years since their wedding. “Our greatest blessing is our three children who live in service to others.”

The oldest of the three, Kathy Ross, volunteers in schools after a career of service to the children of LaRue County as a teacher and administrator. Connie Baker ministers to others as a registered nurse. A son, Chuck, a University of Kentucky professor with a doctorate in rehabilitation sciences, teaches on two campuses.

“They have been a tremendous help to us, too, with a capital ‘T,’” said Phyllis.

Red and Phyllis also have been “givers.”

Red, 88, gave 20 months of his life as a soldier in Korea. He also sat on Hodgenville’s city council for 14 years and was mayor for four years. Phyllis, 80, served others as a health department employee and as an active member of the Woman’s Missionary Union at First Baptist Church in Hodgenville.

The two owned and jointly operated Hazle Farm Supply from 1957 until November 2013, providing parts and repair. They also sold fresh produce, live flowers, garden seeds and plants.

“I miss my garden customers the most,” Phyllis said from her home on Indian Trail in Hodgenville.

Both have survived medical emergencies. Red, who had a bout with cancer some 20 years ago, still takes physical therapy after a stroke on April 19, 2013. Phyllis recovered from a heart attack she experienced in 1999.

Through the good and the bad, they faced it all – together.

“When we married, we made a vow to stay together ‘til death do us part,” Phyllis said. “You didn’t marry back then thinking that if it didn’t work out, you would divorce.”

Looking back, Red, too, feels blessed.

“Every time I sit with my family at church, I am so thankful to have this opportunity which a lot of guys I fought beside in Korea haven’t had,” he said.

He entered the service in April 1952 and was soon walking point at the front of his squad because of the firepower he carried in his heavy, large-caliber BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle).

Though Korea has been called “The Forgotten War,” Hazle, who survived four major battles, will never forget his time there.

“I was in a squad of 18 men and only two of us made it out,” he recalled, his eyes welling with tears. Red made sergeant-first-class and earned a bronze star in addition to the four battle stars before he returned home to Hodgenville in December, 1953.

First date

Though he had known her family for years, he didn’t date his future wife until after he returned from the service.

At that time, Phyllis’ friend was staying in Red’s parents’ home.

“I noticed that when I would visit with her there, Red was extra nice to me,” she said. “One day in March 1954, he asked if he could take us to the drive-in theater at Horse Cave in his new car he got after he got out of the service.”

After dating Phyllis over the summer, Red summoned the courage to propose on his birthday, Sept. 30, 1954, while the two were dining at Jim Todd’s Fish House on 31-W between Glendale and Elizabethtown.

“We were sitting there when Red asked me what my goal in life was,” Phyllis said. “I told him I wanted a Christian family, a home and children.”

Her response must have pleased him, because his follow-up question was, “Will you marry me?”

The two were married three months later. They spent their honeymoon at Renfro Valley and returned to make their first home on Forest Avenue.

UK fans

The couple’s love for University of Kentucky sports even predates their marriage. Red, who played guard on the Hodgenville Eagles’ basketball squad, was offered a basketball scholarship to the University of North Carolina his senior year in 1946, but turned it down because he “had UK on my mind.”

His fondness for UK sports has grown over the years.

“We bought season tickets the year Rupp Arena opened (1976) and kept them until two years ago when I transferred them to my children,” Red said.

The two enjoy life “one day at a time,” relishing time spent at church, with their family, and with Red watching the SEC sports network while Phyllis reads her Kindle.