I am compelled to take a break from campaigning to pay tribute to my former colleague, John Hawkins, who passed away this morning. John was only 68.
John spent a dozen years as an alderman, and recently agreed to take on the thankless task of helping to mop-up the political mess at the Mequon Police and Fire Commission.
Too often, the term “gentleman” is thrown around without much meaning. It has become a replacement for the word “man.” However, in its truest sense, a gentleman is a chivalrous, courteous, honorable man.
John Hawkins was a true gentleman. John always treated others with respect. As an alderman, he was the first person to thank city staff when they did a good job. He gave credit to others, even when he deserved a piece of the credit. He believed in decorum and courtesy. He stood when a woman entered the room. He helped others. He rarely raised his voice. In fact, he was generally a man of few words so, when he decided to speak or felt passionately about an issue, people were first surprised, and then they listened.
John was reserved in a way that made some people underestimate him until they got to know him. That was their mistake. John was a bright, educated man. A graduate of Princeton, he had a lengthy career in manufacturing, culminating in almost 20 years as the president of a manufacturing company. He then spent several years teaching.
John did not just talk about family and God and country. He was passionate about and believed in the importance of those things to the depth of his being. He adored his wife Val and the rest of his family. He was devout. And he believed in patriotism. His was not some watered-down or political version of patriotism. He wore a flag lapel pin, not to impress others, but because he knew that he was blessed to live in the greatest country in the world.
John made a significant contribution to our community. He did so out of a belief in service. He never sought attention or accolades. When he “retired” from the Council, he did so with a few words, a tear in his eye and an understandable (but never spoken) pride in the contribution he made. And, when the City needed him again to add some stability to the Police and Fire Commission, he gladly stepped forward.
I am proud to have called John a friend. I wish I had gotten to know him better. I was honored that he was one of the first people to have encouraged me to run for several offices, including mayor. But, even if he had not, he was the kind of person whose passing I would mourn because he was a truly good and decent man.
John, you will be missed. Thank you for your service. Rest in peace and enjoy your reward for a life well-lived.