The family histories of our namesakes, Hazel (Alpaugh) Astle and Edward T. Astle, are deeply rooted in Hunterdon County, New Jersey. Hazel in particular could trace her family’s history back almost three hundred years in Central New Jersey. The preservation of her family’s photographs, correspondences, documents, treasures, and oral histories remained a lifelong passion of hers.
Hazel B. Alpaugh was born in February 1902 to Frank and Lucretia (McPherson) Alpaugh of Clinton. At the time, her parents ran a peach farm on the rolling hills of Leigh Street, not far from the center of town as we know it today. Hazel spent most of her childhood there, living in the farmhouse with her parents and all three of her surviving grandparents. An only child, she relished the attention of her father and her paternal grandfather, Peter A. Alpaugh. Grandfather Alpaugh spent many hours reading stories to her on the porch, taught her to build her own wooden chair – a favorite memory – and introduced her to the ins and outs of farming, from the joyous (beekeeping) to the repulsive (pig slaughtering). Her father, Frank, was a constant source of conversation and advice for Hazel through her childhood and into her adult life. He often shared with Hazel the daily news he had heard on the radio, from the mundane to the historic. Frank and Peter were beloved by Hazel and common characters in her stories of growing up.
In the 1920s, the Alpaughs retired from farming and moved into a townhouse that they owned in Annandale. The house was Hazel’s home for the rest of her life. After graduating at the top of her class from Clinton High School in 1920, Hazel attended Rutgers University and became an elementary school teacher, a profession she truly loved. After the death of her parents, she met Edward Thatcher Astle, whose own family had lived in Annandale for almost two hundred years. “Ed”, as he was known, grew up in town and left school at 17 to be a ticket clerk for the Central New Jersey railroad. He was a lifetime employee, eventually becoming a clerk at the railroad’s headquarters. Ed took that job so that he could ride on the same trains as Wall Street workers, tapping their knowledge and eventually honing keen investment skills of his own that led to over fifty years of great success in the stock market. They married in June 1953 and continued to live in the townhouse on West Street.
In 1975, Hazel and Ed met David Olekna and Joanne Harris, a newly married couple who had just purchased a house across the street from theirs. Soon, a close and intergenerational friendship began to thrive. Neither Hazel nor Ed had ever had children, and so their friends began to refer to David and Joanne as “the children they had never had”. Hazel and David were particularly close, and she came to consider him her “adopted son”. Though Hazel and Ed have both since passed, David continues to care for the townhouse, their possessions, and the artifacts of family history that Hazel so lovingly saved. Many of these family heirlooms or treasured collectibles are shared with the public upon request.
The Astle-Alpaugh Family Foundation
Upon Ed’s passing in 1986, Hazel and David reviewed Hazel’s estate and decided to do something to both honor her late husband and give back to others in light of her fortunate circumstances. Now knowing what she had to her name, Hazel knowingly remarked, “We have been given much. We must see that some good comes from it.”
They co-founded what was originally The Edward Thatcher Astle Memorial Scholarship Foundation, a charitable trust that combined a tribute to her husband with her lifelong interest in education. For more than twenty years, The Foundation awarded scholarships to college-bound students around the country, basing awards on both merit and financial need.
In 1998, David began to broaden the Foundation’s focus. Hazel passed away in 2000, and David began to feel that the Foundation’s efforts could be more productive and diverse. He also felt that the organization, which Hazel had cared so much about, could honor her passions and interests – history, family, and learning – as well. The Foundation eventually changed its funding focus from student scholarships to organizational grants, and ceased funding scholarships entirely in 2013.
Now known as The Astle-Alpaugh Family Foundation, our grantmaking practices are inspired by a flexible definition of education, a concern for the preservation of local history, and an appreciation of strong families and communities.