The evening of April 2, Larry Vaughan talked on the phone with two men he dearly loved: his good friend, Mike Hazel, and his son, Davis Vaughan.
Hazel asked for a huge favor: Could Larry’s wife help him bake 120 dozen cookies for inmates at the prison in Eloy where Hazel ministered? Minutes later, son Davis called to tell his dad about an upcoming job interview.
In both conversations, Larry Vaughan said, “We left nothing unsaid.”
“It was one of those phone calls where I pulled the phone away from my ear and looked at it,” Vaughan said of his conversation with Hazel. “But, knowing Mike and what he was trying to do, I didn’t think twice. I said, ‘Sure, we can do it.’”
The call from his son ended with Vaughan telling Davis he was proud of him, and Davis saying, “I love you, Dad.”
The next day, his friend and his son perished in a plane crash near east Mesa’s Falcon Field.
On Friday, Vaughan and other family and friends of Mike Hazel and Davis Vaughn honored the two men by finishing the job Hazel had requested the night before he died: the baking of 1,440 cookies for inmates at Red Rocks Correctional Facility, where Hazel and a group of fellow parishioners had volunteered with the prison ministries program.
Inside Central Christian Church’s Higher Grounds Cafe’ on Friday, Hazel’s widow, Debbie, and her daughter, Shaylynn, Larry Vaughan and his wife, Ainslee, and about a dozen of their friends, heated up the ovens, rolled the dough and cranked out the cookies assembly line-style — oatmeal and chocolate chip — before placing them in plastic baggies. A dozen cookies each will be given to the inmates and prison staff during the Kairos Program of Arizona May 3-6, a faith-based event for the inmates at the facility run by the CCA (Corrections Corporation of America).
“He was my best friend,” Debbie Hazel said of the husband she would have celebrated 34 years of marriage with on May 4. “We did everything together. He loved to cook, he loved to bake. He was a sailor who wanted to learn how to fly. We traveled quite a bit. He appreciated every moment of every day. He wouldn’t let any job go undone, and that’s why we’re baking these cookies.”
Mike Hazel originally had asked the chaplain and prison warden at the privately run minimum security facility that houses inmates from Alaska, California and Hawaii, if he could bake brownies for the inmates in his group. They told him absolutely not. However, the next time Mike ministered, he asked the warden to revisit his proposal. Only this time, Hazel offered to bake cookies for his group.
The warden again said no, that he couldn’t just make cookies for his group, but that he would have to make them for everyone, including prison staff.
“Mike agreed,” Vaughan said. “He believed it was important to minister to the inmates and provide hope to people that didn’t have any hope. With Mike’s health and what he had gone through, he could relate.”
Hazel still was undergoing chemotherapy after being diagnosed with the leukemia in November 2010 and nearly dying from it. An engineer for Oracle Corporation’s office in Phoenix for the last 14 years, he leaves behind wife Debbie and two daughters, Shaylynn and Marlen.
Hazel’s near-death experiences during his battle with leukemia, caused him to seek Jesus Christ, before he became interested in the prison ministries with the help of church member Ken Perdine, Debbie Hazel said.
Davis Vaughan, a 2007 graduate of Mountain View High School who obtained his Eagle Scout Badge as a member of Troop No. 653 when he was 16, leaves behind a loving family, a girlfriend and a promising future. His mother, Ainslee, said that flying was his passion, that it was something he woke up to do, and that he had flown his Rans-18 aircraft from Amarillo, Texas to Oshkosh, Wis. and from Mesa to Washington state.
The night before he died, Davis, a December 2011 ASU Polytechnic graduate in aeronautical engineering, called his father, a captain for Southwest Airlines, to tell him about an upcoming job interview to be a pilot with a commercial airline.
The next morning, he and Hazel died seconds after Hazel’s homebuilt single-engine Rans S-12 crashed after it took off from Falcon Field, within yards of a green at the Apache Wells Country Club golf course. Vaughan was piloting the plane as Hazel’s health prohibited him from doing so. The cause of the crash remains under investigation.
Hazel was a retired lieutenant commander from the U.S. Coast Guard, who had acquired an interest in flying, one of his passions along with the prison ministries program.
Neal Greff, also a member of Central Christian Church, would drive with Hazel to Red Rocks Correctional Facility on Mondays and also would attend the church’s Iron Man Bible Study class with him each Thursday with about 200 other men.
“It’s rewarding,” Greff said of ministering to the prison inmates. “We feel it’s important to show the inmates the lord. The church made a video chronicling Mike’s battle with leukemia, and he told me I should watch it. I have no idea why he told me to; there probably was something behind it he wasn’t telling me. He told me that he didn’t know why the Lord was giving him more time.”
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