Whitehall woman shows 'there is life after 70'
At age 78, a Whitehall woman still is finding new experiences and challenges in her life, including zip-lining, parasailing and a renewed passion for performing live music.
Hazel Reynolds is as active and spry a senior citizen likely to be found. The Whitehall resident first experienced parasailing about six years ago at a beach in Clearwater, Fla.
In October, Reynolds and her 51-year-old daughter, who resides in Alaska, plan to go zip-lining together. It would be the first such experience for both women.
Almost every Wednesday, Reynolds performs at an amateur "open mic" night at Gatsby's in Gahanna, knocking out tunes Eddy Arnold and Kitty Wells had made popular in the pre-rock era of the early 1950s.
"There is life after 70," said Reynolds, who is an inspiration to more people than she might realize as she keeps pace with the gaggle of 20-somethings who perform with her each Wednesday at Gatsby's.
"A lot of young women come up and say, 'I hope I'm like you when I'm your age,'" Reynolds said.
Helping keep Reynolds young at heart is a home life that includes an adult son and 14-year-old granddaughter who live with her.
Her son's interest in music came from Reynolds, and he, in part, led Reynolds to revive her love for music.
"My son plays a guitar in a band, and I'd hear them practice in the basement; ... that led me to become interested again in my own playing and singing," said Reynolds, whose brothers taught her to play an acoustic guitar on a family farm in Virginia.
Reynolds attended high school in Kentucky, where, among her unknown classmates, was a future County Music Hall of Fame vocalist named Loretta Webb, later to be known to the world as Loretta Lynn.
Lynn's autobiographical Coal Miner's Daughter is among the numbers Reynolds regularly performs while playing an acoustic guitar.
Reynolds met her husband, William, in Columbus in 1959, but his job as a salesman of Venetian blinds took the family to Florida, where they raised two sons and a daughter.
"I really didn't have time to do anything else (but raise a family)," Reynolds said.
So it is, about 12 years after becoming a widow, that Reynolds lives her life with a renewed flair.
Reynolds, inspired by her son's live performances, began performing at Gatsby's in May. She also travels to watch her son's band and on several occasions has performed with him, straying from her familiar numbers.
"I like Patsy Cline, Hank Williams, ... but really, almost any kind of music," said Reynolds, who has performed with her son's band covering classic rock tunes by the likes of Bad Company.
The musical tendencies of her and her son have passed on to her granddaughter, who is a saxophone player for the Whitehall-Yearling High School marching band.
Reynolds also has performed at Holy Spirit Catholic Church, where she is a member.
In additional to vocal performances and some not-so-timid recreational activities, Reynolds frequents the Whitehall Senior Center, where she enjoys more traditional activities of billiards, shuffleboard and Wii bowling.
Reynolds said she also encourages her fellow seniors to view life as she does.
"I'm trying to get some of the other seniors to go zip-lining with us," Reynolds said.