AYER — At the age of 91, Philip Hazard has quite a history to add to his already historical last name.
Hazard is the great-grandson of Nahum Hazard, who was kidnapped as a young boy and sent to Virginia to be sold into slavery. He was later discovered and brought back home by a local sheriff.
The history lives on in Philip Hazard, who has 11 grandsons and 17 great-grandchildren. The former military man even has an interesting tale of his own.
Hazard grew up in Leominster and went to a boys’ trade school, but later quit school to shovel coal. He joined the army in his 20s, around 1945, the year Word War II ended.
He served in the laundry platoon, mostly stationed in hospitals to wash clothes. He learned how to do the laundry at Fort Devens, digging ditches for water pipes. He traveled all over the world, including to New Guinea and the Philippines.
“When we shipped out on a ship, we didn’t know where we were going,” he said. “And when the ship stopped, that’s where we were.”
His scrapbook is filled with pictures of handsome military men and beautiful Filipino women, Japanese geishas and postcards from exotic places that he never sent.
In the Philippines, he helped build a screen house with a cement floor for the locals at a time when there was still prejudice in the army.
“On this side were all the whites, and the blacks were all on that side,” he said.
He eventually met a woman named Lucy whom he was supposed to marry. After he left, he sent back papers for local police chiefs to sign so that she could come to America, but she never came.
“She was there, I was here,” he said.
By the time he reached Japan, he said, the Japanese wanted peace. But he remembers being given a gun with one round of ammunition.
“If we had to start fighting, I wasn’t going to be without a bullet,” he said.
He even visited one of the sites where the atomic bomb was dropped, and said there was just nothing as far as he could see.
He bought some cloth in Japan and sent it home to his mother, who gave it to his grandmother and made a dress out of it.
When he came back from the war, Hazard married and eventually came back to Fort Devens, making training aids for soldiers. He also made terrain models of the area, noting every detail of the immediate landscape.
He learned carpentry and made countless furniture pieces for the military and for his friends. His apartment now is filled with cabinets, frames, stands and other furniture that he made himself.
And he still has all his fingers, he said, holding up his hands.
Even after her parents divorced, his daughter Brenda Taylor remembers how her father would faithfully come every Friday at six o’clock to pick up her and her siblings.
He would take them to visit family members or to get ice cream in Ayer, she said.
“Like clockwork, he would be there to pick us up,” she said. “No ifs, ands or buts.”
Hazard was met with a surprise last week, when extended family members came together to celebrate his birthday. Although Taylor’s siblings are all living out of the state, her cousins were able to come.
The Hazard family elder stepped into his ninth decade surrounded by family members with the same important historical ancestry, now made even more interesting with Hazard’s own life.
“You put so much food on the plate,” he said to his daughter, “you’d think you were feeding the army.”