Woman standing in front of large water tank with ladder

Hazel Nimela by the water tank in Caspar, c. 1920. (Gift of Mae Johnson)

October 29, 1899 – Hazel May Helm was born in Caspar to Thomas and Ella (Kuhn) Helm. Hazel’s mother was also a native of Caspar and lived her entire life there. Tragically, Hazel’s father, a brakeman on the Caspar logging train, was killed a month before Hazel’s first birthday while unloading logs from the train into the chute above the mill pond. The Beacon noted that Thomas left a widow and five children under the age of 8.

Hazel married William Niemela in 1920. William was born in Albion in 1899 and moved to Caspar in 1918, working for the Caspar Lumber Company until it closed in the 1950s. William died in 1981 and is buried in Caspar Cemetery.

William and Hazel had one son, Billy, born in 1923. Billy served in the U. S. Navy during World War II and in the merchant marine for several years. Billy died in Fort Bragg in 1972 at the age of 49 following several months of medical treatment. He is buried in the Zenith Hill Veterans Cemetery in Mendocino.

Hazel worked for the Paladini Fisheries in Noyo Harbor for many years before retiring. She also served as an elections clerk for the Caspar voting precinct.

On December 30, 1984, Hazel died at the Mendocino Coast Hospital following a short illness. She was survived by her sister, Frances Valenti of Fort Bragg, and by two nephews and two nieces, Walton Johnson, Kenneth Fleming, and Mae Johnson, all of Fort Bragg; and Joanne Valenti of Hercules. The Rev. W. J. Forsyth officiated at her funeral services at the Cannarr-Fairlee Funeral Home. Interment followed at the Helm Family Plot in the Caspar Cemetery with Leonard Valenti, Kenneth Fleming, Fred Baroni, Walton Johnson, Steve Dahlheim and Henry Dahl acting as pallbearers.

Haunted Mendocino Walking Tour – Wear your sweater since you’re bound to get goosebumps listening to the ghostly tales of some of Mendocino’s more infamous residents. We’ll stop at the homes, hideouts, and hangouts of all the well-known specters, and learn a little of the town’s history along the way. Gaze into a mirror where people have seen a woman in Victorian dress looking back at them. Peer into the waves in search of a stallion and the rider who took it into the sea. Did you know not all hauntings are about scary visions or terrifying noises, but that some ghosts haunt with scents? What is that thing that goes bump in the night, followed by sounds of a taut rope swinging from the rafters? Why can guests hear the pitter patter of pets in a building where pets aren’t allowed? What is the area’s oldest known ghost story? And how many spooks haunt the streets of Mendocino? All questions will be answered on this hour and a half long tour through Haunted Mendocino. Join us… if you’re not too scared. October 31 @ 5PM. $25.