Hazel Hacker has lived across the street from First Baptist Church in Hartselle since Nov. 1, 1961. At that time, her house belonged to Morgan Baptist Association and her husband, Bill, was associational missionary. Twenty-five years later, the association deeded the house to the couple in appreciation of their service.
Bill died in 2012, but at 91 years old, Hazel still lives there and still is an active member of FBC, a living example of decades of Christian service.
“My husband used to say if he could go to two bookstores and have a Snickers candy bar, he’d been on a good vacation,” Hacker told The Alabama Baptist. “When we went somewhere, we went to bookstores, and it didn’t have to be two different bookstores. It could have been the same bookstore twice. When I see a Snickers candy bar now, I laugh about it.”
Humor is key to Hacker’s resilience. When she’s in a group at church, they expect her to have something funny to contribute.
She gave an example: “Do you know what happens to a policeman when he goes to bed at night?
“He becomes an undercover cop.”
Longtime Decatur resident
Hacker was born in Selma but soon moved to Birmingham, where she graduated from Phillips High School and attended Norwood Baptist Church. She met her husband there, and after he finished at Howard College (now Samford University), they moved to Fort Worth so he could attend Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
After seminary, Bill served as pastor of Sixteenth Avenue Baptist Church in Decatur for a few years, then moved to First Baptist Church in Centre before answering the call to Morgan Association, where he served 28 years.
“Being a pastor’s wife, we lived right close to the church, and I always felt like I needed to present myself so that if company came I’d be presentable,” Hacker recalled. “I still do that. I still get up in the morning and put on my clothes and put on my makeup. If I want to go somewhere, I don’t have to stop and figure out what I’m going to do.”
When her husband was an associational missionary, they had two young girls and wanted them to have consistency at a local church, so Hacker didn’t accompany him much. Bill was expected to visit all the churches of the association at least once a year, and with 72 churches, that kept him busy.
“I teased and said when the girls got old enough they could come home from church and finish lunch, I’d go with him,” Hacker said. “So we did that.”
The Hackers’ oldest daughter, Peggy Suggs, graduated from Samford and now plays keyboard at Central Park Baptist Church in Decatur. Their younger daughter, Susan Bollinger, graduated from Judson College and lives in Bonham, Texas. She has made 17 trips to Russia to work with orphans, her mother said.
“They’ve both been active in missions wherever they are,” Hacker said of her daughters.
Heart for missions
Through the years, Hacker taught Sunday School, Training Union, Girls in Action and Young Woman’s Auxiliary. As an associational missionary’s wife, she often led Vacation Bible School training, and has been strongly involved in Woman’s Missionary Union.
“I sing in the choir, but I go along with the crowd. If they go wrong, I’m right with them,” she joked. “At my age, I’m slowing down.”
Two things Hacker still does at a strong pace involve touching the lives of children worldwide.
“I crochet sweaters for kids and send them to World Vision, and they send them all over the world,” she explained. “I do this at night when I can’t get up and run around much.”
Hacker can make four sweaters and matching hats per week, ranging in sizes for two-through-six-year-olds.
“This is a joy to me,” she said. “When I finish one, I put it over on the couch in my den, and I can look at it and pray for whoever is going to get that little sweater.”
Also, Hacker said she has “fallen in love with” Operation Christmas Child, the shoebox ministry of Samaritan’s Purse. For several years she was the coordinator at First Baptist, and now she assembles a box per month year-round.
“I give myself some spending money on the first of the month, and I put $20 of it in a little purse, and then I have that money to put on my shoeboxes,” she said.
Hacker also cuts up old jeans and makes small purses to include in the boxes, using the seams as handles.
“I have enjoyed doing that. I decorate them with beads and so forth. My sewing machine will do some decorative stitches.”
The bottom line in any account of her life, Hacker said, shouldn’t be about her “but about what God’s doing and how He’s used me. He can use anyone at any age.”