I was able to spend most of this morning with Mr. Earl Hawkins (and Sally and Corky) now ninety seven and a half years old (in a few days he'll be on the second half of that half, as he would say). I have known him for over twenty years, but recently I have been able to spend less time with him than I would like. I regret this because he is, as the Poet might say, not one of the indifferent children of earth. He is an extraordinary man, meriting every success he has ever had. It was a great pleasure to hear him talk, to be reminded of human excellence in such a direct and manly way. So I pass along a few points, much worth noting, especially during these whining times, when too many complain too much about the hardness of the world.
A flu epidemic killed one of his brothers and made him the smallest boy in the family. But he survived with one good eye. He left Braxton County, West Virginia in 1935 and walked into Ohio with ten dollars in his pocket. He worked at every opportunity and saved everything he could. His National Guard unit was activated in 1940 and he spent the war in the Pacific, including Bouganville. In a shortened way it may be said that he was the perfect American citizen-soldier: Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Silver Star. Then peace came, and eventually, he set up a fruit stand in Wooster and prospered. That became a number of super markets, and he continued to prosper, as did his friends, family, and the causes he believed in. His formal education stopped in the 9th grade, but it continued, as Lincoln might say, "in littles," and he always supported both the University and the Ashbrook Center, wanting to give all the young an opportunity to learn how free men could be prosperous.
He told me that his family didn't attend church much in West Virginia, partly because the Baptist Church was too far up the dirt road and the Methodist Church very far down the dirt road, but my sense is that his mother didn't like the fact that the Baptists said that the Methodists would not get into Heaven because they baptized by sprinkling, not immersing.
His mother instructed him to live by the Ten Commandments, which hung on the wall of their small house. She said they must all work for things they needed, but not on Sundays, and always be strictly honest. He told us that through the McGuffey Readers he learned that whatever he gives to help someone in need will be returned to him tenfold.
This is true, he adds.
His life, in times of hunger and pestilence and war and then prosperity, may be read in a book he wrote over a dozen years ago, My Experiences in War and Business: One Man's Story of Success in America
. It is a well written story, the story of the small boy becoming a big man and an entirely honorable American gentleman. It is a great pleasure to be reminded of such good things from such a good man, and I thank him.