Tributes continue to be offered to iconic television presenter Hazel Ward-Redman, who died of pancreatic cancer at her San Fernando home on Monday. The first weather anchor on T&T Television (TTT) when the station premiered in 1962, Ward-Redman will be remembered as the host of television talent competitions Twelve and Under and Teen Talent, and popular weekend dance show Teen Dance Party. She also hosted Mainly for Women. Ward-Redman was a national award recipient, receiving the Hummingbird Medal (Gold) in 2000.
Natalie Rogers-Cropper was one of the first winners of Twelve and Under, screened on Friday evenings on TTT. Based in Rochester, New York, she described Aunty Hazel as "a woman whose legacy lives in the accomplishments of those many performers who were called to the stage after passing through her hands. I am one of them.
"When my sister Roxanne and I won the very first Twelve and Under over 40 years ago, we had already seen her demonstrate elegance, professionalism, poise, beauty, warmth and joy. She was a shining example of the best of our country.
"As the years went by and I would be a guest on her specials, I was reminded again and again about presentation, elegance and dedication to professionalism. There is no question that I and many of us in the performing world were profoundly influenced by her style and demeanour, which seemed almost royal. A queen she was in every way; we will all miss her dearly."
Rogers-Cropper is currently the Garth Fagan Dance principal dancer/assistant rehearsal director, dance school director and assistant choreographer for the Lion King on Broadway.
National Calypso Queen and National Calypso Monarch Denyse Plummer sang as a child on TTT's Twelve and Under, hosted by Ward-Redman.
"I was shocked when I got the news about Hazel Ward yesterday. Twelve and Under was where I began. Aunty Hazel was an institution. Long before there were the American programmes like The Voice and American Idol there was Hazel Ward's Twelve and Under, Teen Talent and Teen Dance Party.
"I remember being terrified of Aunty Hazel at the age of nine, sitting in a cold TTT studio, awaiting my turn to perform. She was a very disciplined woman. I placed first in the preliminary, the semi-final and the final.
"That is where I got my start. Aunty Hazel was the beginning of Denyse Plummer. It's sad that we have lost such a very wonderful woman. Not only was she wonderful in the work she did but also she was wonderful as a very elegant and classy woman."
Another graduate of Teen Dance Party is Roland Guy, who now runs two health-food stores in Brooklyn, New York. As a teenager he frequented the weekly television dance show with people like Annmarie Rigsby, Nadine Chaman, Janice Peters, Ann and Bubbles Rogers, and Herman Cashie.
Said Guy: "I was very dejected when I heard of Aunty Hazel because she played a very important role in our lives back in that time. She set standards for the youth 51 years ago. She was a very serious woman but very kind, and gave us an opportunity to develop our skills. Aunty Hazel was untouched by the evils of the world.
"Because of Teen Dance Party, several of us actually got work in the studio of TTT. When I came to America, after Teen Dance Party and being in the Vietnam War in 1967, I studied television directing and production at RCA TV Studio School in Manhattan. I had several jobs in that media discipline. It was because of Hazel Ward's encouragement that I was successful in everything I pursued.
"If Aunty Kay was the Queen of Radio Trinidad, Hazel Ward was the Royal Princess of TTT."
Miami-based hair stylist Shazz McLean-Browne enjoyed three generations of involvement with Ward-Redman. She said: "To me Aunty Hazel was the epitome of class, sophistication, elegance and eloquence. When I first met her she was fascinated that I was not a shy child and always commented on that.
"When I went on 12 & Under my parents didn't even know until they saw me on TV on the Friday evening. That was around 1972. I could remember the outfit I wore and the song I sang. The outfit was a maxi tunic of turquoise blue with yellow polka dots, with a hot pants beneath, with strap-up Roman sandals. The song was Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head. I placed third and went all the way to the final.
"Aunty Hazel was like a mother to all us children and she made us feel very comfortable and secure. I also did Teen Talent with her and, as an adult business woman, she also interviewed me on Mainly for Women."
Cheryl Cudjoe, who now lives in Atlanta, Georgia, was 15 when she began attending Teen Dance Party in 1966 and was one of the viewers' favourites. She said: "I was originally on Teen Dance Party with Ann Wharwood, who hosted the show before Aunty Hazel. I remember Aunty Hazel, as she was a wonderful, classy woman; very loving. Almost every weekend I used to win awards for Best Dressed, Best Hairstyle, Best Shoes and Best Dancer. I remember other popular girls like Yvonne Fergusson, Kellmany Lambert and Janice Hunte."
London-based singer and actor Nigel Wong told the T&T Guardian it was Ward-Redman who introduced him to the Russian playwright Chekhov.
"For more than 50 years Hazel nurtured, encouraged and discovered the young talent of T&T. Hazel also understood the importance of nurturing talent of every kind, be it dance, theatre or music.
"The thing about Hazel that struck me deeply was as a young man she gave me three volumes of Chekhov plays. At the age of 14 I had never heard of Chekhov.
Eight years later, while at drama school, playing catch-up, having not had the luxury of A-Level theatre studies, when in my second term the head of drama presented Chekhov plays to us, I inwardly shouted with glee. I was now able to work on their level!
"Many years later, as a professional performer, I returned to Trinidad on holiday. Hazel heard that I was in Trinidad and asked me to do a television special, where my work would be featured. When I got to the television studios Hazel did not greet me as a young prot�g� but handled me with the respect of a professional."
Ward-Redman's funeral is scheduled for Saturday, at St Paul's Anglican Church, Harris, San Fernando, at 10.30 am.