Jerry Hawkins, 92, of Dillon, died peacefully at home on Monday, February 6, 2023, from congestive heart failure. It might speak to his toughness and spirit to mention that, just eight months before his death, he went on a tandem skydiving adventure with one of his granddaughters and said it was one of the best days of his life. The trip was booked shortly before he began experiencing symptoms of heart failure, but as the date approached, he still felt well enough and decided it was worth the risk, regardless of what his doctor or his worried children thought of the idea. He made the jump safely and couldn’t stop smiling about it for weeks.
Jerry was born in Butte on September 5, 1930 and was the eleventh of fourteen children born to Thomas and Cecile Hawkins, both of whom were printers. He attended Butte High School but dropped out to go to work before graduating, as did many young men and women after World War II. Some of that work took him to Sheridan, Montana, where he met Joan Wright, his future wife. He enlisted in the Navy in 1950 and served in the Korean War, with time spent on the Korean peninsula, Guam, and Japan. In June 1953 he returned to Sheridan to marry Joan while on leave from the Navy, and he received an honorable discharge on May 4, 1954, the day his first child, Dee Ann, was born.
After leaving the service, he channeled all his energy into his family, work, and community activities. Dee Ann was followed by daughter Dana in 1955, son Daniel (“Tyke”) in 1957, and daughter Darla in 1965. Jerry worked at several newspapers around Montana, including stints in Harlowton, Polson, Roundup, and Butte. In 1960 he moved his family to Dillon and never left. He worked for the Dillon Tribune for a time, and later owned and operated Beaverhead Printing and Office Supply in various locations and configurations over the years. In the 1980’s he sold the print shop and pursued other interests such as owning a drive-in restaurant in Sheridan, working as an insurance agent for New York Life and Farm Bureau, and doing regional sales for International Paper. By the 1990’s he had returned to the printing business, but vision problems eventually forced him into retirement. His work ethic was legendary, a trait he passed onto all his children.
Jerry made a mark on the community during his 63 years in Dillon. He served for several years as both a member and president of the Dillon city council and as a member of the Barrett Memorial Hospital board. He took leadership roles on several community projects, including the Bicentennial Apartments and the veterans’ memorial on North Montana Avenue. He belonged to many clubs and organizations over the years, including Kiwanis and the American Legion, but he was most proud of his 50 years as a member of the Dillon Volunteer Fire Department. His countless friends, colleagues, golf buddies, and political sparring partners will remember his sense of humor, his selfless nature, and his desire to make Dillon a great place to live and raise a family. He loved everyone and really hated only two things: Cucumbers, and anyone knowing that his middle name was Eugene.
Jerry was preceded in death by his wife, Joan; eleven siblings, a grandson, and a great-granddaughter. He is survived by his youngest siblings (Harry Hawkins and Nancy Landon) and his four children and their families, including nine grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren and step-great-grandchildren, and many extended family members. His good humor and relentless optimism shone through these last few months, as he continued to hope that he might recover, get back to work in the yard, and go skydiving again. He was an inspiration to the very end.
His children wish to thank his medical providers and hospice nurses for their thoughtful care, as well as his many friends and neighbors (you all know who you are) who provided friendship and a helping hand during these last eleven years without Joan. Anyone who wishes to honor Jerry is encouraged to make a donation to the Dillon Fire Department Association or to any organization of their choice. A memorial service will be planned for this summer in Dillon.