Memories and music take center stage at Al Hawkes' funeral

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WESTBROOK — In a tribute fit for the bluegrass king of Westbrook, the service of remembrance for Al Hawkes Saturday was filled with songs, psalms, laughter and smiles.

Family, friends and city residents filled the Westbrook Performing Arts Center Jan. 5 to honor Hawkes, a Hardy Road resident who delighted audiences near and far with his country and bluegrass music.

Hawkes died at the Gosnell Memorial Hospice House in Scarborough just after midnight on Dec. 28, three days after his 88th birthday. His passing came just three weeks after his wife of 66-years, former City Clerk Barbara Hawkes, passed away.

The love he had for his wife was an inspiration for Regina Angelo, a hospice caregiver from who provided care for the couple over the last six months of their lives.

“I knew from my first shift that I would love this family,” Angelo said in her remembrances. She shared many laughs with Hawkes in her time with him, she said.

The couple’s daughter, Darleen Doughty of Windham, shared stories about what it was like to grow up with a famous musician father. She recalled wanting to learn to play the drums, but was forced instead to take piano lessons. Her father, she said, must have always felt guilty about that, because one day when she was 50, he told her he found someone who could teach her the drums. But at that point, she said with a laugh, it was too late.

Doughty said one of her fondest memories is how she, her father and her brother would read the “funnies” in the newspaper together on Sunday mornings. Her father and her brother, she also recalled, would stop at nothing to pull pranks on her when she was a girl.

Slim Andews, a member of the Maine Country Hall of Fame, a group Hawkes was inducted into in 1980, said Hawkes, who won multiple national and state music awards, was known for much more than his music. After Hawkes’ son, 21, died in an automobile accident, Hawkes used his grief to better the community by raising money through a concert to purchase the Jaws of Life for Windham emergency responders, Andrews said.

Rob Smith, who met Hawkes in 1970 when his parents were purchasing a television from Hawkes TV, shared a story of the Hawkes’ foray into politics, including Al’s unsuccessful pursuit of a seat in the State House and Barbara’s successful campaign for city clerk, a position she held for many years.

“Your loss is a loss for Westbrook,” Smith told the Hawkes family sitting in the front row. “Al was a wonderful man. 

Phil Spiller grew up just down the road from Hawkes’ home and the 13-foot-high TV repairman sign Hawkes erected on Route 302 in 1962 to advertise his television and electronics sales and repair business.

“Just like the walking man sign,” Spiller said, “Al always seemed larger than life.”

The tribute wouldn’t have met Hawkes approval without music and the nearly two-hour service featured performances of “America the Beautiful,” “Baby, Baby,” “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and “When the Saints Go Marching In.” The service also featured several hymns, including “How Great Thou Art,” “What a Friend  We Have in Jesus” and “Leaning on The Everlasting Arms.”

Also played was a recording of “Hold My Baby Tight,” a song Hawkes wrote for his wife.

One of his “final missions,” was to work with the Cumberland County Federal Credit Union to establish a music scholarship in his name to help the next generation make their own mark on music, said the Rev. Anita White, pastor of the Highland Lake Congregational Church, where Hawkes worshipped.

“Al is a legend and today we give thanks for having known him and the great legacy he leaves behind,” White said in her eulogy.

Michael Kelley can be reached at 780-9106 or mkelley@keepmecurrent.com or on Twitter @mkelleynews

The Rev. Anita White, pastor of the Highland Lake Congregational Church, delivers the eulogy at the funeral for music legend Al Hawkes Saturday, Jan. 5, at the Westbrook Performing Arts Center.

Sean Mencher, left, Darren (Red) Thiboutot and Darren Thiboutot Jr. perform “Baby, Baby” at the service Saturday. Hawkes wrote the song that was recorded by Curtis Johnson at Hawkes’ record label, Event Records.

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