Hazel K. Baab Scholarship
The Hazel K. Baab Scholarship is for undergraduate students enrolled full-time who meet the criteria for a Winona State University President’s Honor Scholarship. This award is in addition to your Academic or Presidential Honor award.
1. Each recipient must be an undergraduate student enrolled full-time (minimum 12 credit hours) at Winona State University.
2. Each recipient must meet the criteria for a Winona State University President’s Honor Scholarship.
Hazel was the mother of Tom Baab who has initiated a Winona State University scholarship in tribute to her values and hard work which made it possible for Tom and his two sisters, Dona and Kate, to be the first in their lineage to graduate from high school and attend Winona State Teachers College.
Hazel’s grandfather, George Stephan, arrived in Winona as a young boy with German immigrant parents moving west from Ohio when Winona was a trading post with one store. After helping his father establish one of the first farms at Winona, George established his own farm in the Oak Ridge area several miles away from the Mississippi southwest of Minneiska. This farm was later taken over by George’s son Henry Stephan and Henry’s bride, Emma Sodawasser in 1900, Hazel was the second of 5 children, 4 girls, then a boy, born at this farm to Henry and Emma. In 1913, Emma died of tuberculosis at age 36, imposing early homemaking responsibilities on Hazel and her older sister Violette.
In 1923 Hazel married Gordon Baab of Minneiska, a young carpenter who had helped rebuild their barn which had burned to the ground after being struck by lightening. By the end of 1925 she had two children:
Dona who was desperately ill with typhoid fever, and Tom who was thus afforded an early apprenticeship in self contentment. Kathryn, born in 1930, came as the nosebreaker, whether she enjoyed it or not.
Hazel was determined that her children would complete high school and have a wider choice of vocations than were available during the depression years from a home with no telephone, plumbing, newspaper, or regular income. And no car. Gordon hunted, trapped and fished for food and money, while Hazel cooked, canned and sold her domestic skills by doing the laundry and mending for the village bachelors, and mending or altering clothes for those few who could afford to have it done. She sorted the mail when the village postmaster was away. She sent news in to the Winona paper at a nickel per column inch, and contracted with the U.S. Corps of Engineers to read the river gauge twice daily, which was something we could all help do. She did what was needed to cover our bus fare to high school in Winona.
Then in the summer of 1942, while Tom was earning $30 a month as a farm hand, Hazel took the bit in her teeth and moved the family to Winona. The rent was much higher than at Minneiska, where we paid $8 a month. Hazel took a factory job and later drew again on her seamstress skills to find steady employment doing alterations at Winona’s leading clothing stores. Gordon was also able to find more regular work in carpentry with Winona contractors and J. R. Watkins.
Hazel Baab dropped dead at age 71 while painting the front steps of the home she and Gordon owned on West 5th street in 1972. Years later, after our father died in1985, each of us received $30,000, which none of us really needed, thanks to the example set for us by our mother, and the stunning efficiency of her death. While shocking us, it might have delighted her thrifty soul, since it cost nothing.
We are moved by this ripple effect of true generosity. Speaking for Hazel K. Baab’s three children, we feel blessed by her example, and are pleased to be able to express our gratitude by this scholarship created in her name. We hope that each recipient will come in time to know the joy and worth of reaching beyond ourselves. That is why Emerson cited the true gift as being one that reflects the spirit of the giver, rather than the needs of the receiver.