John S. Hazelton, 93, of Hamilton, Montana passed away Thursday evening, October 10, following a brief stay in hospice care at Marcus Daly Hospital. He was born September 25, 1920, in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Harry Jr. and Lucille Taylor (Bernard) Hazelton. John and wife Ruth had moved to Sapphire Lutheran Homes in the Bitterroot Valley from Las Vegas, New Mexico, in 2007.
A graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, John joined the United States Navy, trained in San Diego and served in the Solomon Islands during World War II . He attended both McCormick and Chicago Theological Seminaries in Chicago, earning his Bachelor of Divinity degree at McCormick in 1956. He earned a Master of Divinity degree and, in later life, did his doctoral work at Austin Seminary in Texas.
John was ordained a pastor by the Presbytery of Detroit, Michigan, at Dodge Community House in 1957. He then established a storefront ministry in urban Detroit. He answered a call from the Presbyterian Church of Mexico and, after a year of Spanish studies in Costa Rica, served eight years between 1964-1972 as an industrial evangelist in the cities of Monterrey and Mexico City. He moved back to the states with his wife and three children to serve a rural congregation in Columbus Grove, Ohio and in 1980 transferred to a church on the southern border in Laredo, Texas. Following retirement in 1986, he served scattered small congregations in the mountains of Northern New Mexico.
John’s focus as a pastor was on service to individuals. His theology was about making Christianity relevant to daily life. Industrial evangelism, which was his area of endeavor as a missionary, aimed to bring the Gospel and the church to factory workers and people in working class neighborhoods, making a positive difference in everyday lives, both materially and spiritually. In his preaching, John often chose passages from the Old Testament and was particularly good at interpreting those stories in a way that illuminated contemporary issues and everyday life challenges.
John is preceded in death by his parents, brother Harry and two sisters, Mary Frances and Barbara Ann. John is survived by Ruth, a son Andrew of Arlington, Massachusetts, and his children, Joseph and Iris; daughter Laura and husband Tony Jimerson of El Paso, Texas, and their son, Jayden; and daughter Barbara Ann and husband Justin Stewart of Hamilton and their daughters Fern and Laurel. Also surviving are several beloved nieces and nephews in the United States and Europe, their children and grandchildren, as well as numerous friends, both here and abroad.
Loving and devoted husband, father and grandfather, John was admired by all who knew him for his intellect, gentle nature, spirit of service, good humor and keen reverence for the wonders of the natural world. He will be dearly missed.
A memorial service will be held at First Presbyterian Church, Hamilton, on a date to be announced.
The family suggests that memorials be made to the Marcus Daly Hospice Endowment Fund, 1200 Westwood Dr., Hamilton, MT 59840 or to the First Presbyterian Church of Hamilton or of Las Vegas, NM 87701.