Adrienne Hayden, a familiar face on Denver’s society and charity-fundraising scene who served in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II, died peacefully on Wednesday at the age of 102.
Born April 28, 1915 at St. Luke’s Hospital in Denver, Hayden graduated from Mount Saint Gertrude’s Academy’s Catholic boarding school in Boulder in 1934, according to an obituary submitted to The Denver Post.
“During the Depression when I lived at Mount Saint Gertrude’s in Boulder, I would say it was Sister Murphy who gave me the courage and confidence to stay strong,” she told Blacktie Colorado in 2015 before her 100th birthday, in response to a question about her greatest attribute. “If it’s just one thing, my good sense of humor for sure!”
Hayden studied for a year at Parks School of Business in Denver and, in 1941, was one of the first women in Denver accepted into what became the Women’s Army Corps.
As a Tech Sergeant, Hayden was sent to Shreveport, La., to serve in the WAC recruiting office. She then transferred to the Eighth Service Command Recruiting office from 1942-1946. During the war, Hayden lived in an apartment in the French Quarter of New Orleans working in the army’s public relations recruiting.
She was later awarded the Legion of Merit Medal for outstanding service, according to the obituary.
During her early years, Hayden also worked for the Colorado State Industrial Commission and had an uncanny ability to memorize everyone’s name, she told Blacktie Colorado. Hayden called it a “lifesaving skill” that she used throughout her entire career.
As part of her mid-1940s work in New York City as an international beauty expert — which lasted at the Charles of the Ritz cosmetics company until about 1960 — Hayden was sent to every state in the U.S. and around the world training saleswomen and arranging publicity in places like South America and England.
“I lived on the road for over 22 years in hotels,” she told Blacktie. “(I) didn’t have a chance to have a family. Too much time went by … Friends became my family.”
In 1961 she moved to Denver to marry John B. Hayden, a businessman who owned and operated a food distribution and warehousing business with a partner.
The Haydens belonged to Cherry Hills Country Club, Denver Club, Garden of the Gods Club and Metropolitan Club, while Adrienne was active in many charities and fundraising functions, including the Salvation Army, Red Cross, Central City Opera and Sewall Child Development Center.
Hayden wanted to be remembered “as someone who tried not to be a selfish person and liked to make people happy,” she told Blacktie. “Also, that I enjoyed giving advice and listening to people’s troubles because I cared.”
Preceding her in death was her husband of 31 years John (Luke) Bern Hayden, brother Captain Ogden Kirkland Stratton, mother Katherine Knight Kirkland Stratton, grandmother Nancy F. Kirkland, aunts Helen A. Dede, Marion K. West, Dorothy K. Morey and father Bruce E. Stratton.
Memorial services will be held in the Little Ivy Chapel at Fairmount Mortuary at 11 a.m. on July 20. A reception will follow in the Fairmount Welcome Center.
Memorial donations may be made to the Salvation Army – Intermountain Division, 1370 Pennsylvania St., Denver, CO 80203, or Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary “BVM,” 1100 Carmel Dr., Dubuque, Iowa, 52003-7991 (the order of Catholic Sisters who mentored Adrienne in Boulder).