One of the earliest photographs scattered on the table showed Hazel Hogan Terrar as 3-year-old girl with bright, alert eyes, sitting on a step in her native Sumter, S.C.
Several snapshots later, she is seen as a 12-year-old atop a large cotton bale with two of her brothers, three years after their father, a dairy farmer, had died and their mother had dispersed her six children to relatives because she couldn't afford to keep them together.
In 1931, on the day she graduated from high school in Dalzell, S.C., she posed with a model's flair in front of an oleander bush in her aunt and uncle's front yard -- white-gloved hands on her slender hips, a floppy fashionable hat framing her red hair and high-heeled shoes matching her light orchid-colored dress.
After leaving South Carolina the next year to pursue a career as a registered nurse, the camera's eye seemed never far away from Terrar. Preserved in celluloid frames are the days of a wife and mother who enjoyed life with a wide-eyed awareness of its complexities but who chose to revel in its simplicities.
Just a month before her Oct. 27 death from cardiac arrest at Leisure World in Silver Spring, Terrar took a picture standing in front of one of her favorite places, the National Zoo, with a family friend who had come to town to protest the war in Iraq. She was 91.
Throughout her life, Terrar lived in several cities and traveled to different parts of the world, but she never lost her South Carolina roots. (She was famous, a relative said, for her pecan pie.) Keenly interested in family history, she self-published several books about relatives dating to the American Revolution. She helped her son, Edward Toby Terrar, write and publish "God, Country and Self-Interest: A Social History of the World War II Rank and File" (2004).
The book was based on the 300-plus letters Terrar received from her husband during his time as a decorated naval aviator. She kept them over the years in their original envelopes in a worn, overstuffed brown-leather scrapbook.
"She put up the money for it," said her son, and they printed 200 copies of the 382-page book for members of her husband's squadron.
For some time before the war, Terrar worked as a registered nurse. She trained at Newport Hospital in Newport, R.I., in the early 1930s and later worked in the tuberculosis ward at the University of Michigan hospital in Ann Arbor.
Estella Hunt, who was Terrar's roommate at the Newport nursing school and later worked with her in Michigan, recalled the special hold that her attractive friend seemed to have on the patients there. Nurses routinely were transferred from one floor to another at the hospital, but not Terrar.
"Time after time, when it was time for her to transfer, the patients objected," Hunt said. "They wouldn't let her."
By 1942, however, with the country at war, she made a move and joined the Navy Nurse Corps. A small snapshot showed her in her nurse's uniform, when she was working on the obstetrics ward at the Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego. Later, in 1943, she worked at the Naval and Marine Dispensary in El Centro, Calif. That's when she met naval aviator Edward Terrar, whom she married after several months.
Navy regulations required that she resign from the service upon marriage, which she didn't mind at all. Her life developed like a series of photo negatives exposed to the right conditions. By the war's end, she had two sons and for a while continued working as a nurse in Chula Vista, Calif., where the family lived. In 1952, the family moved for the first time to the Washington area when her husband was an administrative assistant for then-Rep. Bob Wilson (R-Calif.).
In one picture she is found sitting at the kitchen table of her apartment in Mount Rainier with the wife and children of then-Washington Senators player Frank "Spec" Shea.
In the 1950s, her building, Kaywood apartments, was the place Senators players lived when they came to town.
Another 8-by-10 photo shows her with other members of the PTA at her children's school. There also is a shot of her taking a train from Washington with Jean Wilson, the congressman's wife, to an Army-Navy game in Philadelphia.
After returning to California for five years, the family moved to Chevy Chase. Terrar was active with the St. John's College High School and Gonzaga College High School mothers clubs and was a member of the sodality at Blessed Sacrament Church in Northwest Washington. She enjoyed cooking, gardening and playing bridge with her husband and neighborhood friends. Shopping brought her particular pleasure, though not a selfish one. It was mostly to buy for others, said Hunt and her daughter-in-law, Celine Terrar. "Sometimes she gave too much," Hunt said.
Celine Terrar, who is married to Terrar's son David, recalled how early in their marriage her mother-in-law would send boxes of clothes, shoes, perfume and jewelry.
She also recalled how much Terrar respected people for who they were. "Many times I went with her to Safeway in Chevy Chase. She knew everyone by name and also their story."
In 1984, Terrar and her husband moved to Leisure World. She helped raised her two grandchildren, gardened and traveled. Someone, probably her husband, took pictures of her riding a camel in Jerusalem and cooking in an RV in Wales.
Her husband died last year.
Earlier this year, her son Toby took a picture of his mother surrounded by her son David, his wife and son and a family friend. Her eyes were still alert.