Hazel Sookochoff was born on February 11, 1916, in the village called “Nadyezda” of the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood, which was located some nine miles from the district of Verigin, Saskatchewan, to the family of William and Paranya Mahonin. Paranya’s maiden name was Tomilin. Hazel was the third child in their family of four children: sisters – Olga, Vera and Molly.
In 1918, when they were all young, her mother Paranya suddenly passed away. Afterward her father William re-married to Mary Dergousoff, a widow with two sons, Peter and John. Later they were blessed with a son, Laurence. Then Hazel was raised with her second mother and grew up with three sisters and three brothers.
She received her english education of seven grades at a school in the district of Buchanan, Saskatchewan. The Russian language of reading and writing she learned at a russian school which was provided by the community in the era of the leadership of Peter P. Verigin – “Chistyakov”.
In her younger years, Hazel attended prayer and community meetings where she learned the words to many psalms, hymns and folk songs. She was gifted with a beautiful voice and enjoyed singing throughout her life time. From an early age, Hazel, together with her siblings took on responsibilities and toiled in the farm fields, gardens, and helped with the household chores. From her mother and other elders she learned the art of spinning wool, knitting, weaving, quilting, crocheting and sewing; all skills that were necessary, especially in her earlier family times.
In 1936 she met a young man, John Sookochoff of Buchanan, and in the month of December they were united in marriage. Their life together began in the vicinity of Buchanan, where for seven years they were occupied with farming and growing grain. There they were blessed with two children, a daughter Lulu Belle and a son Larry.
In the early forties like many other Doukhobor families, they moved to Grand Forks, British Columbia, where they purchased and settled on a farm in the vicinity of the Carson Road area where they first built themselves a small home and later, a more modern house. At that time some of their relatives and others moved to the same area and a Doukhobor community was established, which was named “Chistyakove”. During that time Hazel and John were blessed with two more children, sons - John and George.
In the 1940s at the “times of the seed industry in Grand Forks”, they grew onions, carrots and flowers for seed and also throughout their lifetime on the farm. They always had a big vegetable garden and kept their own milking cows and chickens. Hazel was an avid gardener and took pride in growing every sort of vegetable, which she put to good use through canning and other food storage and preparation.
Hazel was a vegetarian and took pride in her vegetarian cooking, which included borscht, pyrahi, vereniki, nalesniki, lapsha and vegetable soups. Hazel also took much pride in looking after her yard and farm. Their home was always surrounded by flowers, roses and other greenery. In those years their yard and farm was recognized for the most neat and well kept hobby farm for which on several occasions they took first awards.
In the early 1950’s her husband John was involved in the forest industry, and had his own logging truck working long hours. In the meantime Hazel kept herself very busy raising her children and participating in looking after the affairs on their farm.
She dedicated a lot of her time in the community service of the Sunshine Valley of the Boundary Area. For many years she served on the Grand Forks Fall Fair Committee and took an active part in its celebrations. In both Grand Forks and Rock Creek Fall Fairs she used to submit many entries: flowers, vegetables and crafts and on a number of occasions winning the “Grand Aggregate” award which was awarded to the person winning the most prizes overall at the fair.
Hazel also served on one of the Boundary Hospital committees and volunteered at a “Loan Cupboard Facility” where patients were provided with canes, walkers, wheel chairs and other supportive items. One of Hazel’s hobbies was collecting dolls of different countries and exhibited the collection of over 200 dolls on several occasions for raising funds through the “March of Dimes” program for the Vancouver Children’s Hospital. Hazel was a lifelong member of the Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ. She also belonged to the Ladies Cooking Groups, was a member of the Women’s Choir and actively participated in other organizational functions.
In the late 1970s Hazel and John sold their farm and moved to the area west of town where they built themselves a home and enjoyed their retirement years. 1999 was a difficult year for Hazel as it was the year she lost her beloved daughter Lulu Belle and soon after, in the year 2000, her husband John passed away. Times were hard, enduring grief and sorrow. Hazel carried on, and with the support of her family she continued to live on her own in her home.
Through time she met Alex Verigin and soon between them a close relationship was developed. Together they attended different meetings, celebrations and funerals. Some three years ago her companion Alex Verigin passed away. Hazel with some assistance of home support and help of her granddaughter Michelle Turner lived in her home in town.
Hazel was blessed with a full and vibrant life. Through most of her later years her health was fairly good and like they say “she was on her own feet”. Some five days ago her health started to deteriorate and on June 2, she was admitted to Boundary Hospital where at early morning Sunday June 5, 2011, with her family by her side, Hazel peacefully passed away. She was 95 years of age.
Hazel was predeceased by her birth mother, Paranya Mahonin (1918); her second mother, Mary Mahonin (1962); her father, William Mahonin (1971); her daughter, Lulu Belle Turner (1999); her husband, John Sookochoff (2000); her sisters: Olga Dergousoff, Vera Dergousoff and Molly Koftinoff; her brothers, Peter and John Dergousoff; and her companion, Alex Verigin.
She is survived by her sons: Larry Sookochoff and his wife Susan of Vancouver, John with his wife Bev of Surrey and George with his wife Shirley of Vancouver; eight grandchildren: Sherry, Barbara, Michelle, Darryll , Michael, Heather, Sarah and Tyler; eight great-grandchildren: Olivia, Nathan, Emma, Carleen, Stephanie, Lucas, Mathew and Sean; two great-great-grandchildren, Caitlin and Jack; one brother, Lawrence Mahonin of Trail; and many nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends. Grand Forks Funeral Home had care of arrangements.
Hazel lived a Christian life, her Doukhobor faith was her “way of life”. She was very devoted to it and her faith never wavered. She truly loved her life, people and peace. Hazel was a kind and devoted mother and grandmother. She will be sadly missed and lovingly remembered by her family, her grandchildren and by her relatives and friends. We know her love and her spirit will always be with us. May she rest in peace in God’s heavenly kingdom!