Shirley Hawk was an extraordinary human being. You could count on her if you needed an idea, encouragement, counsel, creative thought, helping hand, place to live, money, etc.
November 17th marked the five year anniversary of the death of Shirley Hawk. But Shirley Hawk will not be forgotten. She left a rich legacy. What’s not to remember! She was warm, friendly, gifted, talented, generous, creative and a lover of the human spirit. Passion, strength and joy also describe this staunch advocate for educating Cleveland's children.
In March 2007, Shirley was posthumously inducted into the Cleveland Educators and Alumni Achievers Hall of Fame by the GradsNet Foundation, one of the many organizations she believed in and generously gave her time, creativity and talent to promote. When you saw Shirley, you'd invariably hear about GradsNet and purchasing a ticket to their next function. During the course of the Induction Ceremony, her Pastor, Reverend Clarence Hicks, while looking over Shirley's list of accomplishments and achievement, was overheard to say, "She wasn't even human!" Indeed, her accomplishments were divinely inspired, purposeful and selfless.
Here's a glimpse of Shirley's impact on Cleveland. She was elected to the State School Board, elected and appointed to the Cleveland Metropolitan School District Board, and a staunch advocate for education. She was instrumental in getting books to the student populace as well as a willing speaker at any CMSD function. She could and did "talk the talk and walk the walk."
According to former Mayor Jane Campbell, "I needed someone for the school board. Shirley Hawk came forward and it was a gift from God. She said to me, 'You know I have many years behind me, but I have years in front of me. And what I want to do more than anything else in the world is to try to help the children of Cleveland get educated.'" That was all she wanted. She wasn't looking for friends to do something. She wasn't garnering political favor to run for office. She didn't want to make a speech. What she wanted was to make it work for our children and she offered herself, her time, her energy and more that anything else her love. Unconditional love for our children and the belief that every child could and would succeed and it was our business to make it happen".
Former County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones shared the following, "Shirley was absolutely committed to her constituents -- the youngest of our citizens. There is no one whose advocacy and championing of the cause of educating our children in Cleveland and the state was any greater."
When she could have been enjoying retirement, she was traveling to Columbus for meetings, out visiting schools, attending Board meetings, promoting Cleveland and its future.
Shirley was a pioneer and a soldier for young people but she genuinely cared for everyone. She often opened her home to friends and family - anyone who needed a place to stay was welcome in her home. She had visitors and exchange students from as far away as Africa. Where family was concerned, Shirley was loving, nurturing, and a mentor. She was the glue that held the family together — matriarch, historian and lightning rod. She took care of her mother and sister until their passing. She also looked after an elderly cousin — getting her moved into a new senior development and making sure her needs were met.
She put God first and service to others next, faithfully serving her church for 47 years as Sunday school teacher, Deaconess and Trustee. She wrote and directed plays, chaired events and loved being the Mistress of Ceremony.
The United Negro College Fund named their volunteer award after her -- the "Shirley Hawk Humanitarian Award." Shirley also promoted and worked with the United Black Fund, the Black History Museum, Cleveland Opera, Black Professional Association and the NAACP.
With all Shirley did and the huge difference she made, it was not without ruffling feathers. Being a leader often means being met with criticism and opposition. While you may not have agreed with everything she said and did you always knew where she stood on a matter. Friend, Louise Neal, said "Shirley stood for something. She stood for children and she stood for the greatness in each of us. She had passion and compassion for those less empowered. Thank you for being courageous and taking a stand even when it was difficult to do so."
Shirley Hawk was an extraordinary human being. You could count on her if you needed an idea, encouragement, counsel, creative thought, helping hand, place to live, money, etc. She was willing to share whatever she had.
We remember you Shirley Hawk — your living has not been in vain. You have touched many lives and made a real, lasting difference.
Thank you for sharing your life with us, for inspiring us and for your generosity. We love you Mom.
Your daughters, Janis Lyles, Cleveland, Oh.; Dzifa Benita Bright, Plainfield, NJ.