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Oct/Nov 2006







best mann for the job

by T.R. Scott

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HAZEL IS A MANN married 53 years to Fay who was a man twice—first by birth and again by last name. Hazel spotted Fay and his twin brother Ray at a Sunday School rally after  a wise judge split up the playful brothers, posting Ray on the east end of the Sword Drill line and Fay on the west end.  Hazel went west and decided that Fay was the man/Mann for her.  She married him on April 4, 1941, and life took some unexpected spins.

The Mann brothers owned farms down the road from each other, raising tomatoes, cotton, vegetables and whatever else they could sell.  They and their wives attended Pleasant Valley Free Will Baptist Church near Warren in south Arkansas. 

Above: Members of Hazel's family display the bags of cotton picked on their southern Arkansas farm.

Although Hazel had seven brothers and sisters (pictured above) who lived to adulthood, she and Fay had no children of their own.  So they loved everybody else’s kids in the community, and impacted the lives of boys and girls who would one day serve God around the world.


Hazel the WAC

Hazel Mann is famous in Bradley County for making 200 quilts and giving them to friends and relatives.  She amazed people by professionally hand-sewing classic dresses for neighborhood women and girls.  But she made her mark in Arkansas through unflagging commitment to local, district and state Women Active for Christ outreach.

Two plaques hang on her wall in Room 20 at Guest House in Warren where she has lived since 1996, two years after her husband died.  One plaque came from the Pleasant Valley FWB Church WAC, the other from Women Nationally Active for Christ—both saluting her leadership and service in WNAC projects.

Hazel put her best into WNAC activities, encouraging young women locally and serving in numerous roles.   She was secretary of both the Saline Association WAC and the Arkansas State WAC, rarely missing district or state meetings, and making sure she was there at scheduled conferences and retreats.


Local Girl, Long Shadow

Hazel is proof-positive that a woman does not have to wear out passports to make a difference.  Most of her life has been spent within 25 miles of where she was born near New Edinburg (AR).  At 87 years old, she has been a widow 12 years, but do not waste time crying for straight-shootin’ Hazel.  She is drill-sergeant tough about life and duty, and carries her part of the load without complaint.

Education came hard in rural America for tweener girls like Hazel, born in 1919 between World War I and World War II.  “I finished the eighth grade,” she says. “My father said that was more than a girl needed, since all women ever did was marry and have kids anyway.”

Hazel’s dad miscalculated about his oldest daughter’s ability and drive.  She was destined to ride that eighth-grade education right to the top.  Before she retired, Hazel helped start a Free Will Baptist church in Phoenix.  Just ask George and Linda Harvey (home missionary church planters), recipients of an interest-free loan from Hazel and Fay Mann.

Hazel prayed students through Free Will Baptist Bible College, prayed neighborhood boys into the pulpit, prayed local girls to mission fields around the world, and gave secret financial gifts to dozens of people in times of crisis.


Vintage Hazel

There’s nobody quite like Hazel Mann.  A Minnie Pearl straw hat that she made in crafts’ class welcomes visitors at her front door.  Her favorite Bible verse is John 3:16 and she left strict orders for somebody to sing “When the roll is Called Up Yonder” at her funeral.  Her advice to young women is vintage Hazel: “Wear proper clothes, Girls, and always do your best for God.”


Above: Hazel (left) poses with Dewey, LT, Betty, Don, James, and Gerald.

She does not hear as well now as she did that day she picked 417 pounds of cotton and made it home before sundown.  But her vision is still clear enough to see the world from her room deep in the green, pine forests of Arkansas.

International missionaries call her by her first name.  She’s a cousin to retired missionary to Brazil, Jean Deeds.  She watched Sue White (Mrs. Bobby) Aycock grow up in the community before Sue went away to FWBBC and a career as a missionary to Brazil. 

Half a dozen of “Aunt Hazel’s” preacher boys from Pleasant Valley FWB Church graduated from her Sunday School Card Class and Junior CTS Class, and now pastor in Arkansas, Illinois and Louisiana...and they all remember Hazel’s no-nonsense teaching style, her tasty, fresh pink tomatoes, and her million-dollar smile when they could not recall an answer.


Give Till Jesus Comes

A few years ago, she established two gift annuities with the Free Will Baptist Foundation, thanks to guidance from her nephew, David Brown, who serves as the Foundation’s associate director.  The two annuities provide dual income streams for Hazel’s retirement years.  And when she dies, those two annuities will deliver regular income to FWBBC and the FWB International Missions Department until Jesus comes.

Hazel did it all in her day.  She chopped cotton and swung an axe as skillfully as she created dresses with needle and thread.  She drove tractors, dug postholes, bush-hogged pastures, and led women’s Bible studies.  Nobody ever told her she was not man enough to do those things, so she did.  When necessary, she filled in as church pianist.

Sometimes the best man for the job is a woman named Hazel—Hazel Mann, that is.

About the Writer: T.R. Scott is a free-lance writer from Nashville, TN. A journalist for more than 35 years, his articles are featured often in ONE Magazine





©2007 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists