James Hawkins


James Kenneth Hawkins died peacefully in his sleep Friday, March 8, 2024.

In recent years, when we asked him what we should put in the details of this composition, he said “I don’t care. I’m not going to read it.” So, without a clear thematic directive, we’ll begin by saying he was a man of great faith and self-deprecating humor who blanketed his family and friends in love and spent almost every day enthusiastically serving others, never seeking recognition for the countless lives he enriched with his unending positivity.

Born June 10, 1945, he was the eldest son of Ivan and Celia “Sal” Hawkins and, alongside his brothers Robert and Patrick, formed a trio of lovable scoundrels who roamed the rolling hills between Bainbridge and Sidney.

He graduated from Sidney High School in 1963 and, after some alleged moving violations in an alleged Ford Fairlane, promptly enlisted in the United States Navy at the tender age of 19. Much like his namesake in “Treasure Island”, young Jim Hawkins was off to sea. Over the next 21 years he would proudly serve his country and sail over the bounding main with stints on the USS Bushnell, Vesole, Conyngham, Nassau and Iowa. He rose to the rank of Master Chief Petty Electrician’s Mate and eventually lieutenant. He circled the world. He lost more than a little hearing to the grinding of heavy metal. He told stories of his adventures that didn’t stand up to even the mildest of fact checking.

His education on the high seas was supplemented by certificates and degrees from Broome Tech, Southern Illinois and George Washington universities, but he’d tell you himself that despite these forays into formal education, the smartest thing he ever did was attend a Fourth of July party on the Purdue University campus in 1969. That’s where he met Sheryl Sandell and, through some magic that suggests an unlisted Hogwarts education, convinced the vastly more sophisticated and intelligent coed to give him a second look. They got hitched in August of 1971. They had two boys. They bounced from port to port until eventually settling in Hampton Roads, Virginia in 1979.

After retiring from the Navy in 1986, Jim spent his second act as a facilities engineer at various hospitals. After bravely surviving their adolescence and sending the boys to college, he and Sheryl took to the road as opportunities arose from afar. From Newport News, Virginia to Sparks, Nevada to Mission, Texas and eventually Scottsdale, Arizona, they would dance and laugh and live and love for 52 unpredictable, action-packed, magnificent years.

When a declining heart forced him to retire from engineering, Jim finally took some much-deserved time to take it easy. After enduring 18 excruciating hours of rest and relaxation, he took a job at the deli just down the street. That turkey wasn’t going to slice itself. Eventually we convinced him to give up the 9 to 5, but he never downshifted in his quest to fill his days with joy and purpose. These are just a few things that made Jim...Jim:

He loved to dive into the details of scripture while leading Bible study fellowship.

He loved John Wayne and the Kingston Trio.

He loved to volunteer at HonorHealth Scottsdale, discharging patients and regaling them with yarns of his travels.

He loved to teach hunter safety and wade into the woods with other men dressed like trees.

He loved to golf, with little to no efficiency, in his weekly men’s league.

He overplayed his hand at cards. Consistently.

He ate meat that seemed, even to the most daring, dangerously undercooked.

He almost fully memorized the names of his two sons, and only occasionally called them by the name of a family pet that had died 35 years previous.

He had a special relationship with gravity, which earned him a fair amount of customer loyalty points at the local emergency room.

But mostly, he gave. His time. His smile. His heart. Everyone was welcome at his table without judgment or hesitation. If you needed a ride or a dollar or a hand or a hug it was yours. In your darkest hour. In the middle of the night. On a regular Tuesday. He believed, very deeply, that Christ’s teachings about love and charity and selflessness were not only a discipline to be studied but a path to be walked. If that path ever crossed yours, you saw him walk it. Every day. When the sun shone bright. When his body betrayed him. When it didn’t come easy.

We got to walk that path alongside him many more years than the experts predicted, yet so many fewer than we had hoped. We weren’t trying to be greedy. We just loved him to pieces. We’re so grateful that he was ours, and that so many more were his.

Jim is survived by his most beloved wife Sheryl, his youngest brother Patrick (Lillian) Hawkins, and his two uncooperative sons Jeff and Chris, who should probably wrap this up.

To quote our hero, he’s off like a herd of turtles.