Remembering Mary Lou Hazelrigg

– L. Arthalia Cravin

hazelrigg park2

marylouhazelriggMary Lou Hazelrigg, the daughter of John and Carrie Harris, was born at Mount Pleasant, Texas, on March 23, 1900. She worked on her grandfather’s farm near Mount Pleasant, Texas chopping and picking cotton and driving a mule around a cane mill. Mary Lou started out in life with very little education, walking the three miles to school during the rare times the family could spare her from chores on the farm. Mary Lou began her work life as a cook and live-in servant. Mary Lou later married Alexander Hazelrigg. They moved to Pampa and then in 1940 to Amarillo where they both worked as janitors for the City of Amarillo until their retirement in 1960. The Hazelriggs also did domestic work for private families after their work day for the city was over.

In 1965 the Hazelriggs began having Christmas parties for the children in North Amarillo who would otherwise have no Christmas celebration. The first Christmas parties began in their home where ten or twelve children attended. As the years passed, news of the parties spread and hundreds of children came to the Hazelrigg home, confident that Santa Claus would be there to provide toys, goodies to eat, and, perhaps, shoes and jeans. Businesses, churches, clubs, and individuals began contributing to the project, so the children were never disappointed. The number of children attending grew to more than 700 while the parties were still being held at Mrs. Hazelrigg’s home. Later, the party grew to include children from the whole Panhandle.

In 1984 the Hazelrigg traditional Christmas party was continued in the North Heights School by the Gamma Tau Sigma Fraternity. As further expressions of her love for children in the neighborhood, Mrs. Hazelrigg held annual Easter Egg hunts and Juneteenth picnics for them. In the late 1960s she worked successfully to establish a neighborhood community center, where she worked as an unpaid volunteer for a time. Recognizing the need for a park in the area, she prevailed upon the Amarillo Parks and Recreation Board to lease a vacant half block, plant trees, and install playground equipment. From 1972 to 1982 she worked each summer as a recreational leader in the park, which was named for her.

Among the many awards earned by Mary Hazelrigg were the Texas Governor’s Award in 1984 and the Distinguished Service Award for Women from West Texas State University in 1979 and 1985. In 1982 Mary Lou Hazelrigg was named Amarillo’s Woman of the Year and Woman of the Year in missionary work by Zeta Phi Beta sorority. In 1974 Mr. and Mrs. Hazelrigg were presented with a plaque and a gift certificate in appreciation of their Christmas parties by the Amarillo Police Department and Northwest Texas Hospital. Alexander Hazelrigg died on February 6, 1975. His wife was a member of Jenkins Chapel Baptist Church, where she worked in the Women’s Mission Society and served as president of the Deaconess Board. She died in an Amarillo convalescent center on May 16, 1990, and was buried in Llano Cemetery on May 22, 1990.

Copyright 2013 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.

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