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Still a Hero


When Mrs. Earl Schaefer had to run errands one day in 1933 in Killdeer, she didn't give a second thought to leaving her four-year-old daughter Hazel at home with her one-year-old daughter Florence.

It happened from time to time that they were left alone at home together; their father worked at a coal mine, and someone had to take care of the chores. There was no daycare then, no way to take care of the kids while at work, but the kids could take care of themselves, as Hazel Schaefer would show.

On that day, too much coal had been placed on the fire. Gas collected in the stove and it caused an explosion. Soon, the room was ablaze. Hazel knew she had to get out, but she also knew she was responsible for her little sister. So, with great presence of mind, Hazel pulled Florence out of the house, set her on a snow drift, away from the blaze, and then by herself walked the half mile to the nearest neighbor, to get help.

The Schaefers lost everything-their home and all their possessions-but the family escaped unscathed, with the children only somewhat cold because of their prolonged exposure.

The community was impressed with Hazel's courage, and decided she needed an award. So, on this date, residents of Killdeer completed plans to seek a Carnegie medal for Hazel.

The Carnegie medal is given to people who perform acts of heroism in civilian life in the US and in Canada. The prestigious award also can provide financial assistance for those disabled during their heroic acts or for the dependents of those who died while helping others. Andrew Carnegie set it up in 1904 to aid and recognize heroes, those he defined as civilians who knowingly risk their life to an extraordinary degree while saving or attempting to save the life of another. The mission statement and definition of heroes has remained largely unchanged since the inception of this award.

Many cases are submitted to the committee responsible for picking the award winners, but not all of them win. Only 25 North Dakotans have received this medal; and Hazel was not among that number.

Yet the little girl was a hero in her community and in her state, and award or no, she was sure to be number one in her family's eyes.

Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker


The Bismarck Tribune, Saturday, February 11, 1933

McKenzie County Chronicle, March 2, 1933