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Columbia Missourian

Hazell Dean Hitt was a passionate business person and active family member

By Lauren Hill
April 11, 2013 | 8:32 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA – Hazell Dean Hitt lived her life to the fullest. She was very active in her chosen career of finance as an adviser and consultant, and owned and managed several businesses.

Hazel Dean Hitt died at her home on Saturday, April 6, 2013. She was 83.

Hospitality was her most prevalent business area. Her business had a presence in 38 states and was merged with a New York Stock Exchange company.

She retired from the business at the age of 50. She then dedicated herself to music, ballet, gardening, her pet dogs and gourmet cooking. Ms. Dean also received an award from the National Guild of Piano Teachers. She spent her life as a member of the Eastern Star.

Ms. Dean was active in her family. She was involved in the Annual Ridgway Family Reunion. She also made sure to convey all the "family happenings" to all the family members.

She became engaged to Rudy Mendez, a former U.S. Marine Vietnam veteran and tax manager, in 1980. They lived in Columbia for 33 years.

She is survived by her adopted daughters, Debbie, Donna and Deana Hitt and their husbands and kids; Rudy Mendez of Columbia; three sisters, Anna Ruth Yelvington of Columbia, Stela Mae (Butch) Erwin of San Antonio and Mary Helen Niemeyer of St. Louis; half-brother Larry (Brenda) Rippeto of Hallsville and several nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews. 

Her first husband Lt. Col. Don Kirkham, U.S. Army Air Corps fighter pilot of World War II, Korea and Vietnam; her second husband, Dick Hitt; brother James Ridgway; and half-brother Harry Rippeto died earlier.

Visitation will be held from 10 to 11 a.m. Friday at Memorial Funeral Home, 1217 Business Loop 70 W. Services will be held from 11 a.m. to noon at the funeral home. There will be a private burial at Jacksonville Veterans Cemetery at a later date.

Memorial contributions can be made to the Missouri Humane Society or the Heart, Lung or COPD organizations.