A Community Voices story by Gladys (Hancock) Thomas.
A Tribute to My Mother in Law, Hazel Thomas
Hazel was born Nov. 30, 1921 at L'Anse au Clair to Louisa Letto. She didn't know her father but found out later that he was from Bonne Bay and died when she was two years old. She lived with her mother and grandparents until she went out to work at age 13 as a serving girl for Aunt Alice Dumaresq.
She married Raymond Thomas in 1938 and they raised four boys, Clyde, Eric, Sam and Dennis. Raymond came to L'Anse au Clair from St. Paul's River, Quebec to fish with his uncle Bill Dumaresq who was married to his Aunt Katherine (Raymond's mother's sister).
Hazel and Raymond lived with Aunt Kate and 'Uncle B' for several years and Hazel looked after Aunt Kate until she died.
Raymond was a fisherman and for many years he and Hazel also ran a grocery/general store. He died in a plane crash in 1968 coming from St.Paul's River to Blanc Sablon. Hazel ran the store for awhile after his death but later went to work at the youth hostel for two years. The youth hostel took in young people who traveled to Labrador from all over the world. For a minimal fee, young people had a place to sleep, eat and wash up.
In 1975 she went to work for The Northern Light Inn where she worked as cook, waitress, housekeeper, bartender and sometimes babysitter for the owners, Steve and Shirley Letto. She worked there for 11 years until she retired at age 65.
After she retired, Hazel made fish and brewis for a few years for the bus tours that came to the Northern Light Inn. She would cook the fish and brewis while they watched sometimes between 12 and 15 tourists would gather in her small kitchen. She would let them sample the fish and brewis and serve them coffee and tea.
Hazel's family were the first Thomas's to live in L'Anse au Clair. There are ten families of Thomas's in L'Anse au Clair at this time. One of Raymond's nephews, Edward, from St. Paul's River is also married in L'Anse au Clair.
Hazel is the longest standing member of the Anglican Church Women (ACW). She joined this group at 12 years of age and is still an active member. She is also on the Church Vestry, the Hospital Auxiliary, Come Home Year Committee and until two years ago she acted in a play for a dinner theatre at the hotel. This was a play about life in L'Anse au Clair in 1949 and she acted in that play for three years.
Sports Weekend was always a big event in March or April. You could always find Hazel in the kitchen cooking or serving soup, jigs dinner, fish 'n' brewis and whatever was available. She would leave the kitchen to act in the concert. I remember she was in the boat onstage with Phil Letto. We laughed and laughed at the song and skit. It was "Grampa loved his motor boat" and in between each verse she would say "keep your cold cold hands off me". She had on an oil jacket and a souwester. You can count on Hazel to be a good sport.
In the last two years when we were raising money for Come Home Year 2008, she was always one of the first ones there to cook breakfast. She always cooked the pancakes and made doughboys and helped cook pea soup for dinner. Hazel is looking forward to Come Home Year.
At age 86 Hazel continues to do a lot of sewing, fixing clothes over, mending clothes, making clothes, and even makes Cossack suits (overalls and jacket for hunting with white canvas duck). She makes quilts too really beautiful ones. In fact, for many years she made the bakeapple quilts that were put on tickets for the Lions Club Bakeapple Festival. She also made hooked mats... she made one while doing the dinner theatre at Northern Light Inn in Lanse au Clair. Today it hangs on the wall in the lobby of the hotel.
Hazel still knits the vamps, gloves and mitts for all her family. Hazel is blessed with 14 grandchildren, 7 girls and 7 boys; 26 great grandchildren and one great great grandchild. She gives all her grandchildren a gift for every birthday and every Christmas. She is greatly loved and appreciated by her family.