Bristol woman ready to hit century mark
MIDDLEBURY –– Hazel Devino was born the year Fenway Park was built — 1912. It seems she was destined to be a big Red Sox fan.
“I love it when the Yankees get beat,” she said in an interview last Friday.
Devino watched the ballpark’s 100th anniversary ceremony on TV and enjoys watching the games.
“I watched that celebration a couple weeks ago,” she said. “Oh, it was something, wasn’t it?”
With her 100th birthday coming on June 27, Devino remains animated and healthy. She lives alone in her family’s farmhouse in Bristol, with assistance from her daughters, neighbors, and Addison County Home Health.
Born in Proctor and raised in Fair Haven, Devino is a lifelong Vermonter. She was the second oldest of 14 children and attended school in Fair Haven. She never finished high school.
“My mother was sick and they made me stay home to take care of my siblings,” she said. “After that I never went back. That was in my first year of high school.”
Although she lacks a formal education, Devino learned through experience.
“I taught myself a lot of stuff,” she said. “Not that I had an education, but everything I did I made out pretty well with.”
Devino and Rollie, her husband, lived in Milton briefly after their wedding. They bought a farm in Bristol, and Devino has lived there for 75 years. They were married 43 years, until Rollie passed away in 1978.
Devino explained that the land surrounding the house used to be part of their 450-acre dairy farm.
“We used to own all this land here and we had a milk room and farm,” she said.
Rollie and the farmhands did the milking and manual work, while Devino did the bookkeeping.
She was also busy raising their four children, Gary, Linda, Judy and Lois, and tending to their gardens.
“We grew a lot of stuff for ourselves,” she said. “We had everything for a while, trees, shrubs, asparagus, raspberries.”
Devino made home-cooked meals, using ingredients from their gardens and orchard. She sewed clothes for herself and her daughters.
She knitted frequently, and her family has passed her work down through generations.
“I made nice things, nice sweaters, with designs and everything in them. My kids always had sweaters that I made them and mittens and hats,” she said. “I was good at it, if I do say so. I wish I could still do it now.”
She donated some of her handiwork, giving over 600 baby hats to Porter Hospital.
Devino was also a skilled quilter and donated quilts to St. Ambrose Catholic Church.
“I used to give them a quilt so they could sell a lot of tickets and make some money. I had one quilt that they made $1,400 dollars with,” she said proudly.
Despite being legally blind, Devino still quilts.
“I’ve always made big quilts, but I lost my eyesight and I couldn’t quilt for a while,” she said. “Then one day I saw this little teddy bear fabric, and I said, I bet I could make a little quilt out of that. I’ve made, between my daughter and I, about 36 little quilts. I do it mostly by feel. Can’t give up quilting.”
She donates these quilts to a refugee resettlement center in Burlington.
Devino’s talents don’t end there. She bakes pies from scratch that are in high demand.
“I had a reputation for being the best pie maker,” she said. “I used to belong to the Russ Sholes Center down in Middlebury. We had dinner and we would bring whatever we wanted to bring and I always made a pie. I got a reputation down there that I was a champion pie maker.”
In her busy home life, Devino found time for fun. She loved playing cards with friends.
“We used to play cards a lot,” she said. “One time we were playing cards and it was about 4 o’clock in the morning. My husband, he got up every morning at 4 o’clock, he came out through here and looked at us –– we were still sitting here playing cards while he was getting up to go milk the cows!”
Now that she has lost some of her eyesight, Devino can no longer sew, knit or play cards. She still keeps herself busy. She keeps up with the news and makes herself dinner every evening. Though she can’t maintain big gardens, she keeps small boxes of zinnias on her back porch.
She likes Bristol because of the small-town feel and sense of community.
“I love Bristol. I think it’s a nice little town,” she said. “It’s a small town, but they’ve got a union high school here, they’ve got a nice small park, and band concerts and socials all going on.”
Although she remained fairly isolated from the effects of the biggest world events in her life — the two World Wars, Korean War, Vietnam War, cold war, civil rights movement and other major events because of living in rural Vermont — she remembers wartime rations in the 1940s and has thoughtful opinions on the nation’s presidents.
“There was a lot of different stuff that you couldn’t just go buy without special permission,” she said. “You couldn’t hardly buy any sugar” during the war.
She has seen 18 presidents, and has opinions about most of them. Devino approved of Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and Bill Clinton. She frowned at the mention of Ronald Reagan and Lyndon Johnson, and didn’t like George Bush senior or junior.
For a 100-year-old, Devino is the picture of health. She doesn’t take any medications and hasn’t had any major health issues.
Her secret? Good living.
“I don’t drink and I don’t smoke and I don’t gamble,” she said. “I didn’t eat French fries or potato chips all my life. You don’t need that stuff. It just ruins your health. I just worked hard and ate good.”
Her family and friends will be celebrating her birthday at a party this weekend. Sixty-five people are expected to attend.
Devino is happy with her life, in all its ups and downs.
“It’s been a good life,” she said. “The Lord is very good to me now, too. I’m so lucky.”
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