Obituary - Charles E. Hawkins
Charles Edward Hawkins was born September 17, 1922, in Berea, Kentucky to Joseph and Hannah (Gay) Hawkins. He passed away November 18, 2023, at Holly Nursing Care Center in Holly at the age of 101.
Charles and his two sisters, Hannah and Lillie Mae, were raised by their loving parents, Joseph and Hannah Hawkins. When Charles was four years old, his mother contracted tuberculosis, and the Hawkins family moved from Kentucky to Lamar so that the dry air could help her. Unfortunately, she passed away, and the three children were left in the care of their father.
Charles attended school in Wiley, riding back and forth each day on his horse. He started off in high school in Wiley, but an out of district tuition of $6.50 per month was too expensive, so he dropped out of high school for the time being so that he could work to earn money for his family. He later resumed high school in McClave. He always liked to say that it took him six years to get through high school. He also likes to say how he had the biggest graduating class ever in McClave, with 29 students. His class was so large, because the dam was being built at the time, so many people from other towns had come to live in the area during the construction of the dam.
Charles was 20 years old when he joined the Army in July of 1943. He was sent to a training camp in Texas before being sent to Pennsylvania. From there he was sent to serve in Casa Blanca, Morocco, in Africa. Charles’ commanding officer in North Africa was General George Patton. Patton was commonly known by the soldiers as ‘Old Blood and Guts,’ his blood, your guts.
Germany attempted to take control of North Africa and Europe. Charles and his platoon chased Erwin Rommel, the desert fox, across North Africa. Once, Charles’ platoon caught and surrounded an entire company of Germans and gave them the choice to surrender or take the alternative. They chose to live, so they threw their guns on the ground, were marched off, loaded onto a boat, and sent to the United States as prisoners. When the war was over, many German prisoners didn’t even want to go back to their country because life in America was so much better. Some hadn’t even seen an automobile before! Some Germans went back but ended up returning to live in America.
The soldiers suffered very harsh conditions during the war. In Africa, it was extremely hot during the day, and freezing cold at night. Soldiers carried a 60-pound backpack around with them all day, as well as some of their other supplies and necessities. Inside the backpack was food and a blanket. At the beginning of the war, soldiers were given C-rations to eat. They each received six cans of food per day, one of them being some type of drink. The others were either meat and beans, meat and veggie stew, or meat and veggie hash. They didn’t receive any sugar in their C-rations. Later on, the army switched over to K-rations, which were very similar, only they came in a popcorn-size package and could get wet. However, Charles preferred the C-rations. At night, they would lay on the ground and roll up in their one blankets to go to sleep. Several times in Italy, they woke up covered with snow. Soldiers also carried a canteen, which they filled up with river water wherever they could find it. A belt on their waist held a bayonet and ammunition, and a rifle was carried by a soldier’s side.
During his service in the war, Charles also served in Algeria, Tanesia, Sicily, and Italy. He was wounded twice in Sicily, and a third time in Italy. His injury in Italy was the most severe, and it ended his Army career. He got shrapnel in his knee. He was sent to a hospital area for two days before the surgeons decided what to do about it. One surgeon said “It looks pretty bad. I think we’d better amputate it above the knee.” However, the other said “Well, we haven’t been very busy this morning, why don’t we try and save it?” So, they did.
Charles was sent back to America on a hospital ship. On that ship was General Patton. One man on the ship was returning to America because he was suffering from PTSD, then known as shellshock. General Patton saw him, didn’t see anything wrong with him, and asked him why he was on a hospital ship. When the soldier tried to explain, Patton slapped him for being a coward and merely leaving without an injury. Patton was demoted by President Dwight Eisenhower for his actions and was sent to England to prepare for D-Day. The Germans couldn’t believe that America would demote one of their best generals. Charles received a Purple Heart and two Oak Leaf Clusters for his sacrifice and injuries in the war.
His time in the war formed the path for his life. Charles saw the photo of a beautiful young lady in his buddy’s hands. He asked if he could write to her, and after he was released, Charles made his way back east to get his best girl, Elizabeth Louise Derr. They married in Pennsylvania and moved to the flat plains of Colorado. Charles and Betty built their life together in Caddoa. They had three rambunctious boys, Chuck, Jim, and Joe, followed by little sister Barbara. Charles took over the mail route from his dad and proceeded to carry it for the next 50 years. Occasionally, Betty would do the route while Charles worked on the construction of John Martin dam. He drove approximately 100 miles every day, sometimes having to grab the mail off of a moving train, and even delivering a mail order bride, (which he picked up and returned the following day).
Charles’ goal was to make his community a better place to live. He served on the McClave School board, was part of the inaugural Hasty/McClave fire department, and spent many years serving as a Shriner. He got great joy from seeing his grandkids and great grandkids enjoy the circus each year. He was a Mason and a member of the Eastern Star. Charles ran cattle and truly loved the prairie where he settled his family.
Charles and Betty enjoyed camping and fishing. Charles especially loved hunting with the guys and looked forward to it every year. The only year he missed was the exciting birth of his youngest son, Joe. Charles shot a bear, and all of his grandkids grew up wrestling on the bear rug. These hunting trips included his lifelong friend, Den Kusaka. They also spent lots of time fishing at Lake Hasty, and Den was an honorary member of our family.
Our Grandpa especially loved babies. Even if they didn’t make the video, we all have pictures of Grandpa holding and admiring our babies. He treasured all of these children, and he and Grandma took great joy in giving them lollipops so that they could get nice, sticky drool all over everyone.
Charles was so proud of Chuck, Jim, Joe, and Barbara, and his family was everything to him.
He and Betty moved from Caddoa to The Legacy when they needed a little more help with life. Charles crawling under the house to work on the plumbing at age 94 had the family concerned.
How do you summarize a hundred years of life? Charles and Betty were married for 78 years. They leave a legacy of love and hard work. His was a long life well-lived.
Charles is survived by his wife, Betty (Derr) Hawkins; daughter, Barbara Ann Wertz; son, Joseph (Gail) Hawkins; daughter-in-law, Linda Hawkins; nine grandchildren, Charlotte (Bryan) Herrera, Shelby (Justin) Homm, Aaron (Darcie) Wertz, Jeff (Leslie) Hawkins, Lisa Harvey (Jon Littler), Chad (Jennifer) Hawkins, Amy Allen, Justin (Julie) Hawkins, and Brandi (Mike) French; 20 great grandchildren; sister-in-law, Cora Schwanz; many other relatives and a host of friends.
He was preceded in death by his parents; sons, Jim Hawkins and Chuck Hawkins; son-in-law, Steve Wertz; grandson-in-law, Todd Harvey; and close friend, Den Kusaka.
Funeral Services for Charles Hawkins were held November 25, 2023, at Lamar Christian Church in Lamar with Pastor Ian Blacker officiating. Interment followed in Fairmount Cemetery.
Memorial contributions may be made to Lamar Christian Church in care of Valley Memorial Funeral Chapel, P.O. Box 950, Lamar, Colorado 81052.
Arrangements were under the direction of Valley Funeral Home.