Hiatt—Gracia Elizabeth Hobson Hiatt, 76, on October 13, 2018, in Jefferson City, Mo., of complications from acute myeloid leukemia, surrounded at her passing into eternity by her family and friends. Gracia was born on November 11, 1941, in Tulsa, Okla., the firstborn of Arline and Arthur Hobson. After a year in New York City, where Arthur taught at the Dalton School, from 1943 to 1945 she lived in the Minidoka Japanese internment camp in Idaho, while he worked for the War Relocation Authority.
In 1945 they moved to Fort Defiance, Ariz., for Arthur’s work at a Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school. The Navajos called her “Hobson’s girl” and (because of her curly blond hair) “tł’ízí tse-gah” (goat hair). Her friends were children of the Navajo, Japanese American, and Oklahoma Indian colleagues of her parents.
She attended Presbyterian boarding school Wasatch Academy, in Mount Pleasant, Utah, continuing to make lifelong friends. She frequently sang at nearby churches, and her brothers remember her singing the soprano aria “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth” from Handel’s Messiah at a competition in the Mormon Tabernacle. Entering Earlham College in 1959, she studied for a semester in Italy, and transferred in her last year to University of Arizona (UA) when family moved to Tucson, Ariz. She worked providing services for the blind in Northern Arizona, regularly traveling across remote areas, much of it on the Navajo Nation. One day at a trading post in Steamboat, Ariz., where she had stopped to look for a client, she heard, “Oh, you’re Hobson’s girl.”
After a master’s from UA in vocational rehabilitation counseling, she joined the Peace Corps. Assigned first to Nigeria, but moving to Liberia for the second half of her term because of civil war, she shared the nervous transit to Liberia during the fighting with several Roman Catholic nuns. She next worked for the California Department of Rehabilitation, first as a counselor and later as a supervisor of Riverside district. In 1971 she met Herschel Hiatt, and they married at Pima Meeting in Tucson, Ariz. They had three children to add to her three step-children. In spite of trials, they remained devoted to one another. His dementia, not immediately apparent, was eventually diagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease. After living in El Paso, Tex., and Tempe, Ariz., they moved to Austin, Tex., to be nearer to family. Gracia’s perpetual cheerfulness and joy in life through Hersch’s decline hid her suffering even from those closest to her. The regrets she shared were always occasioned by a hope for renewal and reconnection.
Delighting in her grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and their offspring, shortly before her diagnosis, she and much of her family spent a month on the beach at her friends’ place at Dana Point, Calif. She stayed in touch with friends even into her last few weeks. Over her life she was a member of Montclair (N.J.) Meeting; Pima Meeting in Tucson, Ariz.; Claremont (Calif.) Meeting; and finally Tempe (Ariz.) Meeting. She was courageous, confident, and cheerful even as death approached. Lines from “The Eternal Goodness,” a hymn by John Greenleaf Whittier, had been included in Hersch’s memorial minute and were read during her memorial meeting: “I know not what the future hath / Of marvel or surprise, / Assured alone that life and death / His mercy underlies.”
Gracia is survived by six children, Julie Foerstel (Ron), Michelle Hiatt, Herschel Vernon Hiatt III (Paula), Arline Andrus (Michael), Arthur Hiatt, and Rebekah Brooks (Matthew); fifteen grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren; and two brothers, Arthur Hobson (Dottie) and William Hobson.