A Reprinting of Merlin Hawkins Eulogy

I will now attempt to cover 85 years of life, and cram all of the love papa's family and friends had for him into a brief few minutes. I will fail completely at this. You can not sum Papa up in one word or one sentence or even one perfect clever story that is an analogy for his entire being. I am available for a more extended version of Papa's story after the service and for the rest of my life. You are always welcome to ask me about him, because as every one knows I use every chance I get to talk about the big man.

Merlin worked his entire life. And that's the way he liked it. From the day he was born he began earning a suit. Nellie Sutton struck a deal. If papa was named Merlin Orville Hawkins, then she would buy him a suit. He told me he has yet to see the suit, but that until recently he had hopes of the deal going through. As many of you know he worked in the steelyards, built ships during the war, owned a grocery store or two, a gas station for around a decade, bought into a Ford dealership, and worked for Koch tractors for just over 20 years.

Then he opened my favorite business venture to date, Papa Incorporated, providing a long list of services to the public, including but not limited to:

Oil changes /advice column, rock quarrying, wood splitting lessons, shake and shingle manufacture, swimming lessons, fishing and hunting excursions, there's a really good box of oranges on the porch take some with you service, baby holding and judging, expert story telling, mole deterrent, neighborhood watch, proper beard grooming instruction, treeing and logging service, how to watch a sunset right classes, and of course, help my car is broken on the highway and you're the only phone number I have memorized shuttle service.

This business has recently been opened under new management but I anticipate a smooth transition.

He was big for his age, every age he ever was, as a matter of fact. When children are big for their age and it's the twenties and leading into a depression, you put them to work, apparently with dynamite. One of Papa's first paid jobs was blowing stumps out of a neighbor's back yard with copious amounts of the explosive. This of course after he was already an experienced picker, from cotton to corn. He remembered how big the sacks of cotton seemed to him when he was moving them around at the age of seven. Many will remember his Grapes of Wrath stories of the trips back and forth across the country.

He said "we" always had enough, at least as much as everyone else, sometimes a little more. By "we" I believe he meant his family, his friends, his community, his town. The "we" that Merlin believed in was all of us. He did not separate his success from those around him. He incorporated everyone he could into a better life. How do you do something like that, how do you give that much of yourself? Well, first you have to be born without any selfish bones. They usually become apparent around the time you are 13. But Papa didn't understand what that meant. If you were hurting, he was hurting, if you succeeded, he succeeded. That's what made going to him with your successes so fulfilling. He lived them with you and in you telling him how everything went right, he got to relive the excitement and joy of it.

Papa was the place until the day that he died that we all took our successes, our pride, our sorrows.

My grandfather has died, and it has ripped my family apart.
How important does that make him?

The Story of the Shingle Weaver's Glove
Remembered by the 5th grandchild

When he was seventeen he was hot mopping the roof of the Hawkins store, now Laura-mae's. You know it as Tony's.

Anyway, they were cutting chunks of tar off of longer pieces down to firewood size lengths. Papa got distracted as he tossed one of the logs into the boiler, and it back-splashed boiling tar onto his left forearm, coating his arm from his knuckles to above his elbow. I never exactly confirmed what was in the street that distracted him. However his first wife did work at the store he was roofing.

His pals took him to the local doc, who confirmed he had boiling tar all over his arm. The doc said he maybe could try to take it off with gasoline, but likely Papa had the worst burn of his life under the tar and the tar would make a reasonable, if not good, bandage. The doc proposed Merlin leave the tar on and don't use the arm much for six weeks or so.

Now this caused a bit of an upheaval of religion. (that religion being football). Papa told the doc there was going be a problem in not using the arm. You see, Papa was the starting guard for the three year undefeated Ridgefield high school Spudder football team and they had a game that night.

At this point in Papa's story, it is safe to say he has your attention. "What did you do," asks the 5th grandkid.

"Well," says the big man, "I shoved my tarred hand into a shingle weaver's glove and wrapped leather up the rest of my arm up to the elbow, but you could still see the a little tar sticking out."

"Then what?" Says the grandson.

Papa says, leaning forward and smiling, like it was a dumb question, "We won!" And then kicks his head back and laughs.

I do not know what a shingle weaver's glove is and the man, as far as I can remember, never hit me in anger. But I guarantee you, you do not want to be hit by a 17 year old Mert Hawkins wearing a shingle weaver's glove only a couple of hours after covering his arm in boiling tar, while on a three year winning streak. You let that guy go through your line all night.

I was raised right, I was taught right. Most of that came from the top down, and Papa was the top. His great grandchildren will be taught right and he was very proud of that idea. He put in the time, he stuck it out, and we are lucky to have known him. That is the best case scenario. Come see me if you want to hear the really good stories.

Patrick Melroy
February 17, 2008

Note: Papa Inc.


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