Former T.R. Miller leader dies

Published 2:59 pm Wednesday, January 26, 2005

By By LYDIA GRIMES Features writer
Bert Hawk, a well- known and long-time Brewton resident, died peacefully in his sleep early Monday morning after a seven-year battle with Parkinson's disease.
Lee Otts remembered him as a good friend.
"Bert was a very great friend and a very hard worker," he said. "He was honest, truthful and frank. He enjoyed life. He was a great asset to his church and to T.R. Miller Mill Company. He loved our daughters like they were his own."
Bert was introduced to John R. Miller in 1944 by Lee Bartlett, a mutual friend, in New Jersey. Miller "sold him on Brewton" and the company. Over the last 60 years, his work withTom Neal at the company, his leadership at First Presbyterian and his involvement with Rotary Club were significant.
In the 42 years he worked for T. R. Miller, he hired and mentored many young men, some of whom continue to work in key positions with the company. After his retirement from Miller at the age of 69, he took another position as executive director of the Southern Wood Preservers Association. He mentored and encouraged many at his church where he served as an elder, and he continued to participate in Rotary Club for more than 50 years.
Margaret McRae, who worked with Hawk when he was with Southern Wood Preservers Association, was saddened by his death.
"He was a wonderful man," she said. "I worked for him three or four years and we traveled a lot. He invited me to come out to share in what he grew in his garden. He was just a good man. He even brought his friend, Mr. Bartlett, here to Brewton after his wife died and looked after him as long as he lived."
Shortly after moving to Brewton, Bert and his wife, Margaret, purchased property in North Brewton where they continued to live. In 1947 "Old Castleberry Road" was dirt and had no city conveniences.
His friend Joe Larkin at Southern Pine agreed to install the first street light outside the city limits of Brewton. Another friend, Frank Luttrell, got him interested in gardening which led to many years of grafting camellias, growing fruit trees and many varieties of plants. The size and popularity of his garden grew to the point that he invited folks "from town" to come out and plant a plot while learning gardening skills from him. Growing more than his family could eat-and more than his wife could preserve-they shared much of what they grew with friends and neighbors.
In 1956 he converted approximately 25 acres of cotton pasture into a tree farm which continues today. As the city limits pushed north, the Hawks began to get close neighbors that Bert encouraged and enjoyed and found helpful, especially with his tractor and gardening work.
Hawk never met a stranger, and his love and interest in other people combined with his "edgy" sense of humor gained him many friends. Blessed with an impeccable memory, he loved telling and re-telling stories to anyone who would listen.
Locality and dependability were values he evidenced by his marriage of 65 years, his faithful service to his church, community and his work. He had a special delight in helping, encouraging and communicating with younger people, and he continued to stay in touch with many after they graduated and moved away from Brewton.
Bert and his wife had three children. Their two daughters both died as young children. Their son, the Rev. Bill Hawk, lives on a small country road in California where he has reared four children and continues in his father's interest in gardening and nature.
Funeral services at First Presbyterian Church for Hawk will be Saturday, Jan. 29, at 11 a.m. His long time pastor and spiritual mentor, the Rev. Jim Baird, will conduct the service.
Because of his particular love and joy in helping young men and women, the Hawks have created the "Bert Hawk Memorial Benevolent Fund" which will be a non-profit organization used to assist young people in various ways. In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate gifts to this account at BankTrust.