The Centenarians

The ‘happiest person in school’ turns 100

Glen Cove resident becomes centenarian


Hazel Reukauf was an English teacher at Glen Cove Middle School for 27 years. She said she can no longer recall what teaching in the district was like, but when asked about her students, she smiled broadly. “I was the happiest person in the school,” she said, her blue eyes smiling too. “I never had any bad experiences with anyone. The children liked me, and I liked them.”

She will celebrate her 100th birthday on May 26, a milestone that she equates with “being lucky.” It does not appear to matter to her that the memory of much of her past is a bit fuzzy. She is content, smiles easily and appears interested in the conversations of others that swirl around her. Once in a while she will look away to watch the birds as they feast from the feeder outside a nearby window in her home. That’s because the birds, she says, make her happy. She likes the cardinals the best.

Having mothered four children, she is a grandmother to 11 and a great grandmother to 13. And another great grandchild will be born very soon. She is still living in the Glen Cove home that she and her husband, Bill, moved to 67 years ago,

Born in Brooklyn, her father a lawyer and a professor at Columbia University, her mother a homemaker, Reukauf might have stayed there if she hadn’t met Bill. Three children later and pregnant with a fourth child they moved to Silver Spring Maryland in 1946 because Bill had been offered a job there.

It was another job transfer that led the couple to Dosoris Woods in Glen Cove. “They weren’t sure where to move but Mom’s brother was the editor of Cosmopolitan magazine and he recommended Glen Cove, saying it was a good place to raise a family,” said Barbara Hedwig, 71, her daughter, who also lives in Glen Cove. “I heard that that year the houses from this neighborhood were on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens.”

Moving to Glen Cove Reukauf said, is her oldest memory. “I liked the weather in Glen Cove and spent the whole summer at Crescent Beach,” she says. Then she stops talking, perhaps to continue the memory on her own.

The couple became involved in the community. Bill coached Little League and Hazel became active at St. Patrick’s Church in the Mothers’ Club. Hedwig said her mother would like to attend mass now, but it is difficult, since after tearing her quad when she fell in her home in 2015, she is dependent on a wheelchair for mobility.

Bill died in 1967, leaving Hazel a widow at age 47. She continued teaching and, began a new chapter of her life as a traveler. With her many friends she vacationed abroad to China, England, Whales, Italy and Ireland. Some countries, like Italy she visited twice.

She was also an avid golf player and played until she was 89. And she had a gym membership at the YMCA in Glen Cove until five years ago. “She took Silver Sneakers exercise classes and swam too at the Y,” Barbara said. “That was before she fell.”

These days Hazel remains as active as she can be. Every day she watches Jeopardy and soap operas and reads the New York Times. But what she looks forward to most is a nightly visit from Hedwig, to share in an evening cocktail. Her favorite drink? Bourbon and water.

“Mom has always been a happy go lucky, nice mother,” Hedwig said. “She wasn’t the warm and fuzzy type. She was practical.”

Hedwig will always remember her mother’s dedication to the English language. “She was a wonderful grammar teacher and big on diagraming sentences,” she said. “At the dinner table she would correct anyone, even someone we brought home for the first time to meet the family. ‘That’s the object of a preposition,’ she’d say.” Then Barbara looked at her mother who was smiling and smiled too.