A Lifetime of Service
By Lena Basha
Volume 140, No. 4, July/August 2006, Page 4

Hazel Parkins has made the most of her life—and she’s nowhere near ready to take a break. Turning 91 years old on July 5, Mrs. Parkins has worn many hats in her long professional and community service career. She taught first aid for the American Red Cross in Sacramento, Calif., in the early 1940s. In 1942, she entered the U.S. Air Force and became the first woman to graduate from its finance school. In 1948, she worked for the U.S. Department of Defense as a budget analyst, a job that took her across the world to exotic locations like Guam, Greece and the Aleutian Islands.

Since retiring 44 years ago, Mrs. Parkins has earned a reputation as a devoted community servant, staying involved in public issues and fund-raising projects on the local, state and federal levels. In 2005, she was presented a Jefferson Award for public service, a prestigious honor for community servants.

“It’s just instilled in me,” she says of her community activism. “It’s just something I do. I can’t explain it. I guess I’m what you’d call a ‘doer.’ ”

For years she has collected money and dog toys for Operation Military Care K-9, which provides care packages for the war dogs and their handlers who are currently serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries. She has also contributed time and money to the placement of a war dog monument in Washington, D.C.

“They work all day, bomb sniffing, guarding, leading patrols, and when they’re finished, they don’t have anything to do at night,” she says. “The care packages, which include things like dog biscuits, tennis balls, rope toys and supplies for their handlers, show them that we appreciate all they do.” 

In Carson City, Nev., where she has lived since 1972, locals know Mrs. Parkins as the “Crosswalk Lady,” a moniker she earned after getting a stoplight installed at a busy intersection.

“I see things that should be done and I just follow through,” she says.

Her fellow DAR members have given her another name, the “Flag Expert.” A member of the Washoe Zephyr Chapter, Virginia City, Nev., since 1999, Mrs. Parkins has served as Flag Chairman for both her chapter and the Nevada State Society and presents flag trivia at each chapter meeting.

“The flag is like a bible to me, and my dedication to it has kept me going,” she says. “Patriotism is very important, and I want to share that with everyone.”

After September 11, 2001, volunteers from Carson City came together to build a memorial to those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks. Mrs. Parkins, who helped raise funds, attended the dedication of a giant American flag sculpture overlooking Carson City.

“I hope it inspires patriotism and love of country,” she says.

More than 40 friends, family members and local and state government officials came together to celebrate Mrs. Parkins’ accomplishments at a surprise 90th birthday party last July. Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn declared the day as one to honor Mrs. Parkins’ life.

“It was definitely the proudest moment of my life,” says Mrs. Parkins of the surprise bash, which she referred to as the 35th anniversary of her 55th birthday. “That’s about as exciting as it gets. The fact that they would think about me like that and throw me a big surprise party means so much to me.”

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