ELWHA — “Happy Birthday, Grandma Hazel,” read the black lettering on the bright yellow poster Sunday.
With 11 children, 33 grandchildren, 84 great-grandchildren, nearly 40 great-great-grandchildren and as the oldest member of all three Klallam bands, Hazel Sampson seems to be everyone’s grandmother.
Known to everyone as Grandma or Auntie Hazel, Sampson turned 92 on Sunday, as she joined well-wishers celebrating her birthday. With prayers, songs and a lot of clams, more than 200 of Sampson’s friends and family members gathered at the Lower Elwha Tribal Center yesterday afternoon to honor her.
“She’s a grand lady,” said Howaltid, who uses only one name. Howaltid sang three traditional Klallam songs in Klallam, while playing a traditional drum. “I’d do anything for her,” he said. “That last song was a song of victory and 92 years is a real victory.”
Sampson, a Jamestown tribal member, smiled through the party. She didn’t want to talk, but was enjoying herself, holding one of her great-great-grandchildren.
“Usually she doesn’t like much of a fest,” granddaughter Diane Turrey said. But today was fine and Sampson was smiling as she listened to her children and grandchildren talk of her, their memories and growing up.
“They’ve all been telling stories and Grandma was sitting listening finding out what she hadn’t known,” Turrey said.
“Remember when we used to sneak out and push the truck down the road,” one of Sampson’s sons said, starting a new round of laughter and stories.
The last time the family and friends gathered in this large a group was in 1995, on Sampson’s wedding anniversary after 67 years of marriage to Ed Sampson, a logger and a fisherman. Ed Sampson died the same year, making his wife the oldest living member of the tribe.
Sampson always worked to pass on the history and the tradition of the Klallam. At her age she has a connection to the tradition of the tribe that she has tried to pass to the younger generations.
———————The rest of this story appears in today’s Peninsula Daily News Jefferson County edition. Click on “Subscribe” to get the PDN delivered to your home or office.