Long-time Eagle resident Mary Hoza lived her life in service to others | VailDaily.com

Long-time Eagle resident Mary Hoza lived her life in service to others

EAGLE — Mary Hoza had a calling in life. She was called to care for others.

For 60 years, she was the devoted wife of Al Hoza. As a mother, she lovingly cared for her family of 11 children, which eventually grew to include 28 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. As a nurse, she cared for the sick and injured and she sat by the side of many friends and patients as they passed from life. As a community member, she served on countless committees and baked hundreds of her signature pizzelles cookies at fundraisers.

When you spoke with Mary, you knew she truly cared about you. With her quick smile and kind eyes, she drew you in to her circle of caring.

Mary passed away Tuesday, Oct. 24, at the age of 89. Her hospital bed was circled with family who spent her final hours reminiscing and sharing their favorite stories. It was a peaceful passing — the kind of passing that Mary shared with many, many people during her long, full life.

Early years

Mary was born Aug. 15, 1928, in Roccamandolfi, Italy, but she was just 5 years old when she came to America. According to her children, Mary said a priest back in Italy advised her parents to emigrate with her daughter. He reportedly told them that in America "they won't let her starve."

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When she was young, her father passed away, but one of his brothers then married Mary's mother. The family settled in Colorado Springs.

As a young girl, Mary loved to sew, and she was an accomplished seamstress throughout her life. After high school, she enrolled in a nursing program. She battled to complete the classwork, but even at the beginning of her career, she embraced caring for patients.

"She always told us she loved getting up and going to work and getting to do what she loved," said daughter Lori Milner.

Daughter Anna Marie Colby said her mother talked about how she would clutch a saint's medal while taking tests, squeezing it before she filled in her answers. It must have worked for her because she graduated from nursing school and was assigned to the Craig Hospital for her internship. That assignment changed her life.

The 'cute little nurse'

While she was nursing patients in Craig, Mary met a fellow intern. Al Hoza was working in the community to finish up his pharmacy degree. While he was delivering medicine to the hospital, he noticed the "cute little nurse" stationed there.

The couple wed on June 7, 1952. They celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary six months before Al's passing in 2013.

The newlyweds settled in Colorado Springs, where they began their family. Mary tended to children during the day and worked nights as both a hospital and private nurse.

"But I never realized she worked until we moved here," said daughter Linda Taylor.

In those early years, Mary would get home from work, make breakfast and pack lunches, drive the kids off to school and then nap during the day when her younger children rested. Then she would be home when the kids returned from school. After she made dinner and spent the early evening with them, she would put them to bed and head out to work.

After several years in Colorado Springs, Al and Mary decided if they wanted to get ahead, they needed to open their own business. Their search for suitable pharmacy options brought them to Eagle. The couple purchased the Eagle Pharmacy in 1966 and moved their brood to the Colorado high country. The Hozas ran the family business for 49 years.

Caring for the community

The Hoza family included nine children when Mary and Al moved to Eagle. Their youngest two children were born here. During her early years in town, Mary didn't have a formal nursing job, but with so many children at home and a husband in the pharmacy business, she still practiced.

"She was a bit of an on-call nurse for the whole town," recalled son Brian.

Mary made time to check in on people she knew were sick. She knew who was feeling poorly because she was always out and about.

"When I was little, I would go with Mom to visit a lot of people," said son Mark. "She would sit with people and hold their hands and comfort them."

In 1973, Mary began work as a home health care nurse, a job she continued until she was in her 70s.

But there was a lot of raising kids before that, the children recalled.

Devoted mom

"She didn't miss a sport, and she didn't miss a game," Lori said.

That might mean dropping in to watch part of one game before rushing out to see another child play a different one. When her younger sons skied for the Eagle Valley High School, Mary marched herself up the mountain. When her older girls were cheerleaders, she helped sew uniforms.

"She was a beautiful seamstress, and she taught us all how to sew," Linda said.

The girls all participated in 4-H Club, and sometimes their mom was a tough critic. They all had to share the sewing machine, which predictably led to drama, especially when Mary would have them re-do a project.

Lots of locals remember attending after-prom parties at the Hoza house.

"There was no drinking, but we would play games all night and then eat breakfast in the morning," Lori said.

She said her friends always wanted her mom to chaperon school outings.

"She was very strict, but she was fun," Lori said.

On weekdays, dinner at the Hoza house was a fluid affair lasting from about 4 to 10 p.m., depending on school activities and what was up at the pharmacy.

"But we all ate together on Sundays," Brian said.

The store was closed that day, so the family might make their meal a picnic. For those occasions, Mary would make a vat of potato salad and fry four chickens because it takes that much food to feed a family of 13. As the children grew and moved away, she struggled with paring down how much food she prepared.

She enlisted her children to help her at canning season in the fall.

"That was the only time we got to miss school — when we helped her can," Anna Marie said.

Al and Mary would head over to Palisade and return with bushels of produce, and the Hoza assembly line would spring into action.

Community-minded

Between her family responsibilities and her nursing work, Mary also found time to serve on countless community committees. Linda recalled a time when her mother was hosting a community meeting at the family home. While the meeting was underway, Mary received a phone call reminding her about another meeting that had just started. So she told the group at her house to proceed with their business and enjoy the refreshments and she left to attend the other session.

One of her proudest community projects was her service on the Glenwood Canyon Advisory Committee. The group was formed to help shape the plan for Interstate 70 through the canyon.

"She got to be the first person to drive through the little tunnel in the canyon," Anna Marie said.

Mary saved volumes of documentation from the canyon committee.

"If Glenwood Canyon ever falls apart, we have all the minutes so we can help them rebuild it," Anna Marie said, joking.

Mary received many community honors during her years in Eagle. She was named Citizen of the Year and received a 9 Who Care Award. She was both proud and humbled by the accolades.

Sharing a laugh

While sitting with their mom this week, the Hoza kids shared both tears and laughs as they recalled their mother's antics. Linda told the story about how after she graduated high school, she moved to Denver. Mary came to visit a number of times, and she asked her daughter to take her to a University of Colorado study center.

"I took her there a couple of times and then I finally asked her what was up. She told me she had signed up for a study having to do with figuring out what shingles was all about."

After several exposures, Mary never contracted the disease.

"She kept going and she was so disappointed, saying "I didn't get shingles, again,'" Linda said.

"Why would anyone want to get shingles? That is a terrible sickness," Lori said.

Son Gary recalled a time when his mother was caring for a friend who was stricken with Alzheimer's. The woman was often confused, but Mary remained patient. One time the pair of them were driving around town when Mary pulled up beside a police officer. Her patient frantically signaled the cop that she needed help and when he approached, the woman yelled out of the window to the officer "Help me, help me!" The patient suggested that Mary needed to be medicated.

For many people in the community, their last memory of Mary will be during the grand opening of the Castle Peak Senior Care facility one year ago. She was so happy that night, mingling with friends and colleagues from five decades spent in the Eagle community. That evening she talked about how wonderful it was to be home again.

Mary Hoza, 1928-2017

Mary Hoza, of Eagle, passed away Tuesday, Oct. 24. She was 89 years old.

She was preceded in death by her husband of 65 years, Al Hoza, in 2016, and sisters Eildred and Eleanor.

Mary is survived by her 11 children: David Hoza; Anna Marie Colby (Al) of Eagle; Tony Hoza (Ella) of Homer, Alaska; Linda Taylor (Jay) of Gypsum; Gary Hoza of Gypsum; Brian Hoza (Michelle) of Hayden; Lori Milner (Bill) of Buna, Texas; Alan Hoza (Joan) of North Pole, Alaska; Joan Hoza Rigoli of Grand Junction; Mark Hoza of Australia; and Paul Hoza (Amy) of Centennial. Additionally, she is survived by 28 grandchildren and 15, soon to be 16, great-grandchildren.

A memorial service and celebration of Mary Hoza’s life is planned at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 28, at Saint Mary’s Catholic Church in Eagle. Immediately following the service a reception is planned at the Hoza residence at 306 Howard St. in Eagle.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Mary’s name can be sent to the Lewy Body Dementia Association, an organization that provides research, education and support to individuals and families contending with dementia and other memory-health issues, at lbda.org or Lewy Body Dementia Association, 912 Killian Hill Road, S.W. Ligburn, GA 30047.