Robert Kay Hawkins, 96, went home to be with the Lord on Friday, September 29, 2023 at Rose Hill Retirement Community in Marion.
Son of the late Samuel Roscoe Hawkins and Marie Carson Hawkins, he was born in Nashville, TN. He came to Marion as a young child when his family relocated for his father’s career in constructing rail beds and cofferdams for the rapidly expanding railroad industry. He began his formal work at age 16 when he and a friend left the mountains of McDowell County to take jobs at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in Newport News, VA. There he helped build the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid and the cruiser USS Houston. At the age of 18 he was drafted by the U.S. Army during World War II and served in the Philippines (Manila Bay and Luzon) and in South Korea. After the war ended, he returned to Marion, worked for a short period in the grocery business, and later took a job with the U.S. Post Office, where he worked for 36 years.
Robert Kay was a man of great faith, and he joined Story Memorial Presbyterian Church in 1937, serving as a deacon for 10 years and as an elder for 40 years. He sang in the choir for many years, even though he knew that singing wasn’t one of his gifts. His most recent church membership was with Riceville Valley Community Church in Asheville, where the entire family squeezed into one pew. He was a loving anchor to his family and a model of courage and perseverance honed by the Great Depression and World War II. He used his time generously, as he was always on call to people and organizations in need. He was an avid vegetable gardener, and over the decades he delivered many hundreds of hot meals and homemade pies and cakes that he and his wife Hilda prepared. Blessed with the memory of an elephant, he never forgot a person, an encounter, or any of the hundreds of jokes, sayings, and funny stories that he knew.
He and Hilda married in 1950, and they enjoyed fifty-seven years together until her early death in 2008. He was also predeceased by an infant son, Samuel Kenneth Hawkins, who died in 1952; a grandson, Jeremy Adams, who died in 1999; and, an older sister, Mary Horton, who died in 2011. His legacy will be carried on by his two children raised in Marion – Janice Adams of Marion, and Robert Hawkins (Connie) of Watkinsville, GA; a younger sister Cathy (Jim) Evans of Niceville, FL; a granddaughter, Susan (Jeff) Herzog of Asheville; three great-grandsons (Jonah, Ezekiel, and Micah); a special family friend, Lois Greenlee, whom he considered as another daughter, as well as countless extended family and friends.
The family will receive friends on Tuesday, October 3, 2023, from 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm at Beam Funeral Service and Crematory, followed by a 3:00 pm service there to celebrate Robert Kay’s life, officiated by Reverend Howard Quach. Interment will be held after the service at Stroud Chapel Cemetery (West Marion United Methodist Church). Robert Kay still had the hand-written deed from 1902, specifying 396 square feet of burial space at a cost of $1.50.
Love and appreciation are extended to all caregivers including Dr. Mark Burton, the staff at Rose Hill Retirement Community in Marion, and CarePartners Hospice. The support and compassion of these individuals gave Robert Kay a very kind and comfortable final year. Robert Kay loved flowers and grew many, but friends wishing to make a donation to his memory are asked to consider Riceville Valley Community Church, 2342 Riceville Rd. Asheville, NC 28805 or Black Mountain Home for Children, 80 Lake Eden Rd. Black Mountain, NC 28711.