Remembering Fern Hacker, an Exceptional Volunteer Into her 80s

Dec 11, 2020

Though it was a sad day when news reached The Salvation Army’s Mayfair Community Church that Fern Hacker had died at the age of 82, those who knew and loved the member of the church community took comfort in the fact that up until her final days she was doing something she loved: volunteering for The Salvation Army.

“Fern logged an impressive 1,961 volunteer hours with the Metropolitan Division,” said Suzie Brashler, volunteer resource manager for the Army’s Metropolitan Division. “And 326 of those hours were in 2020 – amidst a pandemic and at higher risk due to her age.”

At the time of her passing, Fern was serving as a volunteer coordinator for the Mayfair Corps, but over the years she held several volunteer roles with the Army, from social services and volunteer coordinator, to receptionist, food pantry coordinator, and Angel Tree program coordinator.

Lieutenant Nancy Rivera, a corps officer at the Mayfair Community Church, is quick to point out that Fern matched her impressive volunteer hours with impressive dedication. “She devoted her life to The Salvation Army and to her volunteering work. She was much more than what was recorded on paper,” Lt. Nancy said. “She set an example of what an exceptional volunteer looked like.”

Impacting Her Team

Lt. Nancy and her husband Lt. Pablo first met Fern two years ago when they arrived at the Mayfair location as cadets. “She was so helpful in showing us around, providing insight about the community and the corps history,” Lt. Nancy said.

Justin Rose, English ministry director at Mayfair, worked alongside Fern in several capacities for the past nine years. “She had an amazing work ethic, was not afraid to do what needed to be done and to work very hard,” he said. “She loved everyone and was faithful to her friends, family, colleagues, and church members. She embodied the idea of faithfulness.”

Perhaps the person at the Mayfair church who knew Fern best was Marilyn Gonzalez, the emergency assistance case worker who first met Fern when Marilyn was 7. Fern was a friend of the family and would give Marilyn and her siblings candy when they visited her office at the corps.

“Fern was someone who I admired and looked up to. She was someone who was loved and respected throughout the corps and The Salvation Army,” Marilyn said. Fern’s example is no doubt partly why Marilyn went into social work herself.

“Fern taught me everything I know today about social services, food pantries, and the Greater Chicago Food Depository,” Marilyn said. “As I started my journey in social services at the age of 19, there were a lot of times I doubted my ability to manage such a big responsibility. She was there every step of the way and reassured me that I was doing a great job and was a good caseworker.”

A Far-Reaching Legacy

Though gone in body, her spirit and legacy appear strong at the Mayfair church. “She showed us that regardless of age you could serve your community,” Justin said. “Over her 80+ years of being a Salvationist in Chicago, she had an influence on thousands and thousands of people. She was one of the most committed people I have ever met.”

Suzie Brashler agrees. “I am grateful I was able to meet her briefly in February when Lt. Nancy mentioned she was essentially a fulltime volunteer at the corps, often volunteering 40 hours a week,” she said. “I am grateful for Fern’s servant heart and her dedication to The Salvation Army’s mission.”

Lt. Nancy fondly remembers Fern leading the senior women’s ministry program at Mayfair. “Fern would take her ministry ladies to volunteer at the Army’s territorial headquarters, volunteer at nursing homes, participate in any events they could. Never let age fool you, she seemed to be telling us. She was always on the go, but she enjoyed it,” Lt. Nancy said. “She is truly missed but never will she be forgotten.”

Marilyn sums up the woman she came to know as a close ministry partner and friend, “I would say Fern's legacy is the big heart she had to serve those in need and the big heart she had for the Word and work of the Lord.”

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For tax purposes: The Salvation Army Metropolitan Division EIN is 36-2167910.

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