Born 100 years ago today in Detroit, Michigan, Hazel Margaret Lefler was raised by French Canadian parents who settled in Los Angeles, California when she was two years old, where she grew up with her younger brother. A love of education developed early. She graduated with a B.A. in Education from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1940 and was a graduate student at Wheaton College from 1940-1941, receiving her M.R.E. in 1964 from San
Francisco Theological Seminary.
Vermont Avenue Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles was Hazel Harken’s religious home during the college years. She met Charles Harken, an aeronautical engineer, there and they were married in 1941. After starting a family, they were appointed as missionaries in 1947 by the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church. The next thirty years were spent as missionaries in many countries: China, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Brazil. She first worked as a Director of Christian Education (DCE) in Manila starting in 1949, and served in that role for seven more churches throughout her career in Sao Paulo, New York City and, after “retiring” in 1981, in Azusa, San Gabriel and San Marino, California.
In her 35 1⁄2 years at Westminster Gardens, Hazel Harken not only had the distinction of being the longest-term resident but also contributed her time and efforts to numerous Presbyterian and other organizations. As a member of the First Presbyterian Church Monrovia, Hazel Harken was involved with the Presbyterian Women as an Elder, Mariner, Circle Leader, Moderator, committee Chair, and Bible study leader. As part of the San Gabriel Presbytery, she served on the Presbyterial, and as an Elder, member of the Christian Education and Church Development committees. She was part of the Philanthropic Educational Organization (P.E.O.) – Chapter B.I in Monrovia playing many roles over the years. While care-taking for her husband for eight years after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 1989, both of them joined the research program of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at the University of Southern California, which she continued for two decades after his death in 1997. As a member of the Women’s City Club of Pasadena, she was an active member of the Scholarship Committee for over 20 years. A scholarship has been named in her honor. She also worked and traveled for African Enterprise. Finally, at Westminster Gardens, Hazel Harken hosted the “Tea and Scones” group of widows and was part of the Latin America Prayer Group, Gardening Enthusiasts, and Chorus, all in addition to her informal role as the “matriarch of the Gardens” and dear friend to many.