The Eulogy for Ann Hawkins
Early on in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus took those who would be his disciples up on the mountain where he gave what is known as the “sermon on the mount,” which laid out a description of what sort of life it was he had in mind for those who follow him.
He said to his disciples, “You are the salt of the earth.” Salt has many uses, but in those days its primary use was to preserve food from spoiling. So when Jesus said we are to be the salt of the earth, he meant that we would have preserving influence on a world, keep the world from falling apart.
A similar idea was expressed when he said we are to be the “light of the world.” In the darkness, people bump into one another and lose their way. We are to be the light that keeps the world from getting really confusing and despairing in the darkness.
I thought of these words of Jesus when I thought about the life of Ann, particularly in regard to the impact she had upon this church, and upon this community.
Ann’s whole life seemed to be based on the premise that we are here to serve – that we should leave things better off than we found them.
Ann was raised Roman Catholic, but she married a Methodist. George joined our church in 1960, and for the next four years Ann straddled the fence, attending mass but also attending worship with her husband at first at the little white church on the hill, and later at Central Middle School where the congregation met as it waited for the new building to be built. When her daughter Colleen was about to be confirmed, Ann, having been won over by warm-hearted Methodists, decided to take the plunge, professing who faith in Christ and becoming a member of our church in the same worship service in which her daughter was confirmed.
It wasn’t long before Ann knew more about the Discipline and how Methodists were supposed to do things than the vast majority of people in the congregation. Over the years she served in a wide range of capacities. Early on she ran the old mimeograph machine, printing out the bulletins. She served as lay leader, as well as secretary of the Administrative Council. She got deeply involved in the Ladies Society, which became the United Methodist Women, serving at various times as president, treasurer, and pretty much every other office there was to have.
Betty Polen remembers how Ann was always the person you went to in the church when you wanted to do something but wasn’t sure whether it was appropriate, or legitimate, or sensitive of peoples’ feelings. Ann always knew what was best.
I remember numerous instances at Ad Council where we would discuss some problem, or something that wasn’t working effectively, and after the meeting was over, most of us would forget about it. But not Ann. She would continue to think of ways we could fix the problem, or do something better, and before long she’d come to me to share the progress she’d made.
Formally and informally, Ann and George always took initiative in greeting newcomers, a tradition I understand they carried on at their church in Florida.
Betty attributes Ann with having kept her from leaving the church. Early on in Betty’s time here, she came to the conclusion this wasn’t the church for her, but before she could make her leave, Ann caught up to her in the church parking lot. Betty still remembers what Ann said: “You can’t leave. You belong here,” she said, and said it in such a way that Betty believed here.
Betty also remembers Ann’s clever and sensitive way she had of drawing her and others more deeply into the life of the church. Early on Betty was disinclined to get involved in things like church bazaars, but Ann approached her, leading with a compliment. “Betty, you’re good at math. Could you come to the Bazaar and from noon to 1 and help me take the money for the luncheon?” How could she say no to a request such at that? Just one hour, but enough to get her feet wet, and before long Betty easing herself further in, becoming more and more involved, following Ann’s example.
When she moved down south, it was Ann who would organize yearly reunions of Parsippany United Methodist members who had migrated to Florida.
She was, you see, the salt of our church, keeping us from falling apart.
And it wasn’t just for our church. She had the same impact on the community of Parsippany. Her instinct was always to get involved – to serve and to help. Ann got involved in the PTA on every level – elementary school, middle school, high school. With a lot of years between Coleen’s birth and Keith’s birth, her involvement lasted a long, long time. Her competency was recognized, and she became active on the County level of the PTA, and then the state level, becoming the vice-president on the state wide level.
She worked as an Aide in the schools, and served on committees of the Board of Education. When a position opened up on the School Board between elections, they offered it to Ann, but she passed on it, and so they offered it to George instead, and he ended up being elected for two terms on the Board. She became a den mother in both the girl scouts and the cub scouts. She was active in the Parsippany Women’s Club, helping to establish the local library. She served as the president of the Par-Troy Garden Club.
She was the salt of the earth, the light of the world, and our church and our community are all the better for the time God planted her here.
We were put on this earth in for the purposes of love. God created each of us with our own distinct personalities to bear the beams of love in this world. Ann understood this truth intuitively. Her 61 year marriage to George was a sign of God’s love in this world. They were truly a partnership, strengthening each other to go out into this world to make a difference.