Viola Ideletta Hazen

May 1, 1916January 24, 2012

Viola “Vi” Hazen, 95, passed away January 24, 2012 at home in Yakima. As our gracious dear Mom, Grandma, and “GG” (Great-Grandma), she is forever in our hearts. In the history books, though, she will be remembered as the Norwegian Woman Sheriff.

Vi was born in 1916 on a raw-boned little farm outside Lamberton, Minnesota. Her parents Edward and Hilda (Engen) Pooch raised Vi and her four brothers and two sisters in a two-bedroom house they built themselves. The only insulation was the “ice frosted on the walls,” Vi recalled, and the only heat came from burning dried corncobs and twisted straw. But the family stemmed from tough Norwegian roots. On many an evening her mother “depended on prayer to help feed” her family of nine, and she taught Vi the virtues of hard work and faith in God. They had few books or other luxuries, but always there was the old family Bible, brought down from the shelf to be read every day. Over her long and rich life, Vi’s faith helped her deal with hardships and challenges with a calm grace and always enriched and deepened her love of life.

Vi attended a one-room school through 8th grade. Her first overnight trip away from home was to see a silent movie in town. Even sixty years later she recalled walking all day with her schoolmates and teachers to reach the theater seven miles away. Vi left home at the age of 15 to attend high school in Tracy, Minnesota, where she worked for room and board. She wrote cheerful letters home describing her happiness, dedication to school, and faith in Christ.

After graduation, Vi found a job at the “The Eat Shop,” a local diner popular with the railroad and factory workers. One of the diner regulars was Tracy’s Chief of Police, Harry B. Croft, who clearly found more than just the food to his liking. The police chief and young waitress soon married. In 1938, they moved to Marshall, Minnesota, where Harry’s spirited door-to-door campaign quickly won him election as Sheriff of Lyon County. Harry’s new job brought the perk of living in a lovely Victorian house, although the jail was attached to the back. Vi and Harry ran the Sheriff’s office together, with Vi serving as bailiff, cook, and the jailer for female inmates. Often she helped transport inmates to distant detention facilities around the state.

Vi became the only woman sheriff in Minnesota when Harry died unexpectedly in 1946. By then she also had two little girls, Carol (3) and Naomi (1), to take care of. But the young mother of two was trained to use firearms, and with her typical mix of confidence and competence, Vi quickly took on the full range of Sheriff duties, including making arrests and conducting court business.

In 1952, Vi married Walter E. Jones, who owned the Marshall theater. After a “family honeymoon” to the Black Hills in South Dakota with the girls in tow, the family relocated to Fresno, California, where Vi would live for almost 50 years. In Fresno she was dedicated to public service and became an active member of First Methodist (Wesley United) Church, Toastmistress, Y’s Menettes, and Junior Assistance League. Following Walt’s death in 1962, Vi returned to work and spent the next 17 years as a bookkeeper at the YWCA.

After 20 years of single life, Vi married Dr. Alden Hazen in 1983. The couple volunteered their time in many good services, and they also enjoyed traveling to the Holy Land, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, and throughout the U.S. The couple met First Lady Barbara Bush during a trip to Washington, DC, where Alden received an award for literacy work.

Widowed a third time after Alden’s death in 1997, Vi moved to Albany, Oregon, in 2000 and then to Yakima in 2005 to stay close to her family.

Vi loved few things more than seeing new places and connecting with people. She could make friends with anyone. Though she lost three husbands, and once was even robbed at gunpoint at the YWCA, Vi never lost her sense of optimism and trust in people and God. Vi’s many loved ones know that life will not be the same without her. We were blessed to have this “special jewel” in our lives.

Viola is survived by her daughters, Carol Ladd of Yakima and Naomi Scheidt of Manhattan, Kansas; sister, Eunice Noding and brother, Arnold Polk, both of Minnesota; four grandchildren, Cheri (Tim) LeCain, Scott (Michele) Ladd, Jennifer (Phil) Murray, and Julie (Brad) Snyder; eight great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Viola was preceded in death by husbands Harry Croft, Walter Jones, and Alden Hazen; sister Ethel; and brothers Leonard, Kermit, and Ray.

Arrangements are under the care and direction of Keith and Keith Funeral Home.


Viola Ideletta Hazen

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Sally Belk

February 3, 2012

Wow! What an amazing woman! I never met her, but she is an inspiration for what a "strong woman" really is!

February 2, 2012

Vi was always a fun loving aunt who always cared and loved everything and everyone. I know when she came to Minnesota there was always some get together with all the bothers and sisters. Mom and Dad (Alvina and Kermit Polk) would always get together and talk over old times with everyone. She is missed. God bless here memory. Love always. Judy Polk Cords

February 1, 2012

We are Myrna (Melligan) Anderson, Donna Miller, and Dennis Christensen. Harry Croft was Myrna's uncle, so we are related. We were glad to see the article about Viola in the Marshall Independent. We live in Balaton and Garvin, Mn. She must have been quite the lady. Our sympathy. Our e-mail is

Polk Gary

February 1, 2012

May God bless and keep you and your families as you miss and grieve the loss of your mother. I will always remember Vi's simile and pleasant demeanor.