Canada celebrates political icon ‘Hurricane Hazel’, aged 101

Published May 22, 2022
Mississauga (Canada): 101-year-old Hazel McCallion poses at a museum dedicated to her long life and accomplishments in public service.—AFP
Mississauga (Canada): 101-year-old Hazel McCallion poses at a museum dedicated to her long life and accomplishments in public service.—AFP

TORONTO: Hazel McCallion, 101, was recently reappointed to the board of Canada’s largest airport as she forges ahead with a career that has included being a city mayor for 36 years and playing professional hockey.

Her tenacity earned her the nickname “Hurricane Hazel.” “I don’t know how it came about (that) they call me ‘Hurricane Hazel,’” she said in an interview at a Mississauga, Ontario exhibit celebrating her life, adding with a boisterous laugh: “I know I move quickly.” And nothing seems to stop her. Throughout her long life, she says she followed the mantra: work hard and be prepared.

“Hard work never killed anybody, my mother told me that,” she said. “If you want to go anywhere you have to work hard.”

Born in 1921, in Port Daniel, Quebec, Hazel is the youngest of five children. Her father worked in the fishing industry while her mother was a nurse. She left the family farm at age 16 to continue her education, before taking up secretarial work during the Second World War at a Montreal engineering firm.

She also played on a professional women’s hockey team for two seasons, losing two teeth while earning Can$5 (US$4) per match, which she described as “a princely sum in those days.” In 1951, she married Sam McCallion with whom she had three children.

“She wasn’t always there, but she was there when she needed to be,” recalled her son Peter McCallion, describing her as a “wonderful” grandmother to her only granddaughter.

Inspired by former Ottawa mayor Charlotte Whitton — the first female mayor of a major Canadian city — and Margaret Thatcher, she entered politics in the 1960s.

Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2022

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