Living in Society

We’re Going Home — Char Hawks

Autumn Blaze maple tree leaves.

Charlene Mae Vorwald Hawks, 93, died on Tuesday, March 21, 2023. During high school, after Father died, I got to know her son Tim and was a frequent visitor to their home on Grand Avenue in Davenport. I don’t remember when we started calling her Char. I have two strong memories of her.

The first was at their family home. The front door of the house opened into the living room where I was waiting for Tim. Char came in to say hello as parents of friends did in those days. As we conversed, one of her daughters came down the stairs ready to go out for the evening. Char immediately sent her back upstairs to address the hem length of her skirt, which was deemed too short to leave the house. There was resistance, then compliance. I can’t recall what Tim and I did afterward as it was anti-climactic.

The second memory is when I returned from military service in November 1979. I contacted her about her recent American Studies degree. We talked about my attending graduate school on the GI Bill. She encouraged me to pursue an American Studies degree. Based on her advice, I tracked down the graduate college dean, D.C. Spriestersbach, over the Christmas holidays when most faculty were not around. Char wrote a letter of recommendation and helped me get enrolled in the January term.

The obituary published on the funeral home website tells her story:

Charlene Mae Vorwald Hawks, 93, of Dubuque died Tuesday, March 21, 2023. Visitation will be from 3 to 7 p.m. Friday, March 31 at the Egelhof, Siegert and Casper Funeral Home and Crematory, 2659 Kennedy Road. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated 11 a.m. Saturday at Resurrection Catholic Church, preceded by a Eulogy at 10:45 a.m. Graveside services will be at St. Joseph’s Catholic Cemetery, Bellevue, Iowa.

Charlene “Char” was born in Dubuque, Iowa, on Jan. 12, 1930. She was the only child of Elmer and Monica (Theisen) Vorwald. While born an only child, Char saw her cousins on both sides of her family as siblings. She spent many joyous days with them and loved them dearly.

Char earned her BA in Classical Languages from Clarke College. She continued her education while raising her children, earning her MA and PhD in American Studies from the University of Iowa.

Char married James Edward “Ed” Hawks on November 19, 1951, at Nativity Church in Dubuque. Together they shared an unparalleled love and an eternal partnership. The years were filled with raising their children, enjoying their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and traveling the country. Wherever their travels took them, Ed commented that they met a relative of Char’s.  Their best days were spent at an old stone house, lovingly called the “Rock House,” near Bellevue.  Their seven children, and their children’s spouses, are Tim (Mary Lew McCormick), Shorewood, WI, Teri (John) Goodmann, Dubuque, IA, Cathy (Tony) Topf, Wonder Lake, IL, Laura Hawks, Iowa City, IA, Susan Hawks, Sugar Grove, IL,  Carolyn (Bill) Bates, Donahue, IA,  and Lisabeth Hawks, South Elgin, IL. Char is also survived by 21 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren. Char was preceded in death by her parents, Elmer and Monica Vorwald and her husband Ed Hawks.

Char was a force of nature and transferred that energy toward many different pursuits through her life. She volunteered for the March of Dimes, Girl Scouts, and the St. Paul the Apostle School Board all in Davenport, IA. Char was a proud member of Rotary International Club and was recognized as a Paul Harris Fellow. After earning her advanced degrees Char worked at Augustana College (Rock Island, IL) as an adjunct professor and the Director of the Reading and Writing (Lab) Center.  At Augustana College, Char became a beloved mentor of many students.  Never one to retire, Char and Ed opened Hawk Hollow Antiques and Collectibles in Bellevue, IA and Galena, IL. In all these endeavors Char developed close, life-long friendships that brought her much joy.

Memorials may be made to Hospice of Dubuque; the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary; Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey; or Luther Manor Communities. Char never met a person, plant, or book she didn’t love. In lieu of a memorial, feel free to donate a book to a library, volunteer time to a literacy organization, plant a tree, or plant some flowers. These meet Char’s greatest wish to make the world a better place. Family, faith, and education were most important to her.  

The family wishes to thank the nurses and staff at Luther Manor Communities and Hospice of Dubuque for their loving care and generous spirit.

I made a couple of trips to the Rock House, once with Tim about the time they were installing a furnace, and another for Tim and Mary Lew’s wedding reception. It was always a time away from quotidian affairs spent with friends and family. Char Hawks has now gone home and will be missed.