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‘Remarkable’ lady took troops under her wing

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A remarkable woman: Hazel Dalley, who died last month at the age of 89, has been remembered as a "true friend to Bermuda" (Photograph supplied)

For almost five decades Hazel Dalley went out of her way to make the Royal Bermuda Regiment feel at home whenever they trained in Jamaica.

Known to generations of soldiers as “Miss Hazel”, “Auntie Hazel”, or “Aunt Haze”, she took the troops under her wing and treated them like her own family.

Ms Dalley, who died last month at the age of 89, was this week remembered by RBR soldiers past and present as a “remarkable” woman and “true friend to Bermuda”.

“Hazel Dalley was an extraordinary woman, who was well respected and admired by hordes of people from around the world,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Eddie Lamb, Commissioner of Corrections and former RBR commanding officer, who met Ms Dalley on his first trip to Jamaica as a young sergeant in 1982.

“My life has been deeply enriched by having known Hazel Dalley, as have countless other lives. I am one of a legion of people who benefited from knowing this wonderful woman and this world was made better by her being in it. She will truly be missed.”

Describing her as “his surrogate Jamaican mother”, Colonel Lamb said “her strong passion for her country, her unrelenting service to her community in St James, her tireless giving to others and her genuine concern for all of mankind” made her extraordinary.

“She went out of her way to make the entire Bermuda Regiment feel at home whenever we trained in Jamaica, either by personally greeting us on the tarmac as we arrived or providing food and refreshments in her store for soldiers.”

The businesswoman and philanthropist ran Dalley’s Variety Store on Gloucester Avenue in Montego Bay — unofficially dubbed the “Bermuda Embassy” — and welcomed any Bermudian who stopped by.

Premiers of Bermuda, beginning with Sir John Swan, paid homage to her by visiting her during trips to the RBR’s training camps, and she came to Bermuda several times — most notably to witness Change of Command parades.

Ms Dalley also assisted the Regiment in times of need, with Colonel Lamb recalling her helping them out of a tough spot after 150 soldiers were left stranded at the airport when their return flight to Bermuda was cancelled.

“Within minutes, Auntie had organised rooms, bus transportation back to the hotels, and food for us.”

He added that she was a “colossal force with which to be reckoned” with an iron will and fierce determination, and that he made a point of visiting her every time he was in Jamaica.

“One of the proudest moments of my life was when she came to my Change of Command Parade in 2006, and then presented me with a beautifully framed and eloquent tribute. It now adorns the walls of my office and for the last ten years I have read it every single day I am at work.”

Sergeant Debbie Symons will be among the RBR soldiers who will be attending Ms Dalley’s home-going service in Montego Bay today.

According to Sergeant Symons, who met her “adopted auntie” on her first trip to Jamaica with the Regiment in 2008, Ms Dalley spotted her leaving the plane and insisted on meeting her. However, the two didn’t get the chance to connect until after they had completed their two-week training and were back in Montego Bay.

When she finally made it to her shop, Sergeant Symons said Ms Dalley “grabbed me and hugged me and said my lost niece, why did you take so long”.

A deep friendship ensued and Sergeant Symons travelled to Jamaica several times to visit her “Auntie”, whom she described as a “friendly, warm, strong and phenomenal woman who loved everyone as her own”.

They last saw each other in April 2016 and Sergeant Symons said: “This time when she hugged me it was extra-long and she whispered in my ear and said take care of yourself, saying she loved me. I said Auntie, I will be back on vacation next year so I’ll see you. She didn’t answer me back.

“I will truly miss her but will always remember her through the good times and pictures we took. May she rest in peace as God only takes the best.”

RBR commanding officer Lieutenant-Colonel David Curley also met Ms Dalley on numerous occasions, most recently on last year’s overseas training exercise.

“She was very happy that the Regiment was back training in Jamaica because we hadn’t had any jungle training for four or five years,” he said.

“She was a good person to know and very well respected by the community and in Montego Bay.”

“She always wanted to know when we were coming to Jamaica and she would visit us up in the Portland area at Titchfield Camp,” he said, adding that she was “a very dear friend to us”.

• A condolence book has been set up at Augustus Funeral Home for those who wish to add their sentiments. It will be taken to Ms Dalley’s family in Jamaica at the weekend.

Sergeant Debbie Symons with her "adopted auntie" Hazel Dalley (Photograph supplied)
Sergeant Debbie Symons and her family visit with Ms Dalley while on a family cruise (Photograph supplied)
From Montego Bay with love: Jamaican variety store owner Hazel Dalley during her visit to Bermuda with Dudley White of the Royal Jamaican Constabulary (left), Premier Alex Scott and former Bermuda Regiment Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Eddie LambPicture: Department of Communication & Information