2 November, 2021 | 2 min read

Biography: Hazel Shirley

Born: 1898 – Independence, Missouri

Died: 1988 – Oakland, California

Hazel was a registered nurse, musician (organist), poet, writer, widow, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.

She lived opposite Moeser Lane Shopping Center before its construction, and was prompted to activism by the eviction of trailer residents living there at the time.
Hazel became increasingly disabled by loss of sight and hearing and by frequent falls, but insisted on independent living, refusing family offers of shelter. She finally yielded to residency at “The Berkshire”, a board and care facility in Berkeley.

She was featured in an Oakland Tribune story on May 15, 1986, while facing eviction from the home because her SSI checks had been “snafued” for four months by the federal Social Security Administration. On May 12, 1986 the Oakland Tribune headlined her inability to move into Hazel Shirley Manor because she was not “self-sufficient”.
Hazel was Chair of the El Cerrito committee on Aging Subcommittee on Housing, and, along with Gertrude Hall, represented the committee on the board of Senior Homes, Inc. She was also one of three city representatives on the Hazel Shirley Manor Board of Directors.

During the 13-year struggle to get Hazel Shirley Manor built, Hazel continued to haunt all levels of government with her advocacy for housing for the neediest. She made numerous referrals for available out-of-town low-rent vacancies, usually in public projects. She received a national award from HUD, and came to symbolize El Cerrito’s case for low-rent housing. Her annual Christmas party, for which she saved all year, and to which she invited all the leading advocates for “her” cause, always featured her organ music and group singing.

Although she lived to be present at the dedication of the Manor, she never did live in it.  Such was the life of a woman who once dated Harry Truman, and who literally wore out a telephone with her advocacy work for the elderly.


For more information about Eskaton Hazel Shirley Manor click here.