Marilyn Hazel, of Middle Island, NY, passed away just before midnight on June 21, 2020 at the age of 80. She was born Agnes Marilyn Wencer on April 23, 1940 in the Maspeth section of Queens, New York City. Her father and mother were Anthony Wencer and Agnes (Silakowski) Wencer. She had an older sister, Rosemary, and a younger brother, Ronald. The family moved to Hicksville, Long Island, when she was young and she graduated from Hicksville High School, where she was an enthusiastic member of both the Glee Club and the Archery team.
The first half of Marilyn’s life followed a fairly traditional path for a woman of her generation. She married Cornelius J. Hazel in 1959 and had two sons, Kevin and Kerry. After living in Queens during the 1960s and early 1970s, the family moved to Holbrook, Long Island in 1974. Marilyn was a homemaker during this period, and in addition to raising her sons, she helped care for numerous pets, including cats, turtles, a hamster and a dog. Her love of animals also included the successful rehabilitation of two injured baby birds that landed on her doorstep.
Unfortunately, Marilyn also developed a neurological disorder in the early 1960s, later diagnosed as olivopontocerebellar atrophy, but more commonly referred to as cerebellar ataxia. This disease progressed relatively slowly in the 1960s and 1970s, primarily limiting her ability to walk without assistance.
The second half of her life followed a less traditional path, as she developed new interests and pursued them energetically, despite increasing physical challenges as her ataxia progressed. Following a divorce, she became more independent, learning to drive in her early 40s and buying her first car (although a Jaguar was at the top of her wish-list, she had to settle for a Chevy). She also enrolled at Dowling College, and completed a bachelor’s degree in Sociology. An accomplished student, she was accepted into graduate programs at several prestigious universities, ultimately attending SUNY Stony Brook. She received a Master’s degree in Sociology from Stony Brook, and nearly completed her Ph.D., as she ended up completing all requirements but her dissertation.
After finishing her schoolwork, she worked as an advocate for the disabled in Suffolk County, NY, and was an adjunct faculty member at Dowling College, teaching Sociology to undergraduates. After her professional career wound down, she continued to advocate for disability rights on a more personal level, fighting for increased transportation services from town and county governments.
Her motivating force was a fierce desire to live independently, which she was able to do until the end of her life, with regular visits in recent years from her wonderful part-time aide and friend, Rosalie. In addition to her career interests, Marilyn was passionate about music, theater, and art throughout her life and she enjoyed filling her home with artwork and books on art history. She also maintained her love of animals and her devotion to her family throughout her life.
Marilyn is survived by her brother Ronald and his wife Janet; her son Kevin and his wife Ellen; and her son Kerry. She is also survived by her nephews, Andrew and David.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the pet shelter organization Bideawee (www.bideawee.org), or to the National Ataxia Foundation (www.ataxia.org).
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