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Teacher shared talent, time

Hazel Semeyn shared her knowledge as easily as she shared her crafts, and usually a child stood to gain.

By JANET LEISER
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 8, 2002


HAZEL SEMEYN
1919-2002

STONEY POINT -- Hazel Semeyn's nimble fingers worked nonstop. Always, she was crocheting tiny turkeys, hearts and bunnies, hundreds and hundreds, all to give away. She made dozens of dresses for children in shelters at the Spring.

Semeyn could not help but share.

It was a trait that served the Tampa teacher well.

Semeyn
She passed around knowledge like she passed around knitting -- and, usually, a child stood to gain.

"She loved teaching very young children," said her eldest daughter, Judy Farrell of Katy, Texas. "She wanted to instill in them a love of learning. She didn't want to just teach them their ABCs."

Semeyn died Saturday of complications from a stroke. She was 82.

Tuesday evening, dozens of friends and relatives gathered at her home in the neighborhood of Stoney Point, off West Shore Boulevard, where Semeyn had lived for 35 years. They shared stories of their mother, grandmother and teacher, a woman whose lessons had never been limited to classrooms, and certainly not to the children of strangers.

Farrell remembered a curiosity that bred knowledge.

"She was teaching, always teaching," Farrell said.

Once, before the family's 1966 move to Tampa, Semeyn tried to teach her daughter about snakes. They had found one in their yard in Texas. Semeyn saw it as an opportunity.

"She picked it up and told me to look at its square nose. That's how you could tell it wasn't poisonous," Farrell said.

"Then we heard this noise. Rattle. Rattle. Rattle. She said, "Well, before you pick up a snake, check the tail first.' "

In Florida, Semeyn found other teaching tools, including the saltwater flats near Sunset Park, where she hunted for shark teeth with her son Judd.

"She loved birds and nature," he said.

Later, she always had a project going.

Daughter-in-law Lisa Semeyn recalls the handmade dresses with button-down backs and crocheted closures that Semeyn stitched for children at the Spring, a shelter for women and children.

"She called me up all excited about the perfect buttons she found," Lisa Semeyn said.

"I asked her what she was making. She told me I had to come over and see. She must have had 50 dresses, sizes 2 to 8."

Semeyn only wanted the children to know that someone loved them.

"She never wanted anyone to know she was the one behind the gifts," Judd Semeyn said.

At Thanksgiving, she made turkey pins for granddaughter Jessica Semeyn, 23, to give away at work. No one was surprised. She had done so for grandchildren year after year.

But this time, Semeyn had special instructions for Jessica, who teaches fourth and fifth grade at Tampa Bay Boulevard Elementary School.

"She specifically told me to give them to the lunchroom ladies because no one gives them anything," Jessica said.

"She was right."

Semeyn treasured independence in herself and others. After her husband's death in 1981, she stayed at the home they shared, working hard to keep it up. She was still going strong, until a stroke in November.

She leaves three children, Farrell, Judd Semeyn of Tampa and Janne Boone of Temple Terrace, and seven grandchildren.

- City Times chronicles the lives of the famous and not-so-famous. To suggest an obituary, e-mail citytimes@sptimes.com or call 226-3382.

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