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See you later, alligator!

Beloved Weston library clerk passes away

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See you later, alligator!

Pinky Hawes

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POSTED February 10, 2013 11:59 p.m.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ripon’s Pinky Hawes died unexpectedly Friday following complications from an elective surgery in the Bay Area. Hawes was widely known in the Ripon community for her contributions to children, to education, to her church, to her family and to sports activities. Funeral services are tentatively set for Wednesday at Deegan Funeral Home in Ripon. The following is a column about her life that appeared in The Bulletin some six years ago shortly after her retirement.

It’s a goat story that all began with the birth of “Pinky” Hawes – a popular, longtime library staffer at Weston Elementary School in Ripon.

Jaqueline (Pinky) Hawes was a familiar and respected part of the school staff since its inception. It was with mixed emotions that she walked out the door into retirement. She loved to read to the students in her library – just being around children was her forte’.

She would get to school early – like 7:45 – and pull loose ends together and make the coffee, and turn on a heater before others arrived.

The nickname “Pinky” was given to her at birth and it has stuck to this very day. It wasn’t just by chance that she was given that moniker but rather the outcome of a medical emergency shortly after her birth.

She was born in Chatsworth, in Southern California, where doctors feared she would never leave the hospital. Something was wrong – very wrong – and the hospital staff was at a loss in identifying the problem.

Hawes said she was barely clinging to life when a doctor suspected that the pink-colored newborn might be allergic to the milk she was being given.

The medical team had tried everything to save her life – all in vain – they were just waiting for her to die. Out of desperation one doctor paid a visit to the home of a friend who had a pet goat in his back yard hoping to secure goat milk.

“Pinky,” as she would be called from that time on into adulthood, took a dramatic turn for the better with the introduction of the goat milk. The pinkness of her skin began to fade and lightened to a more natural hue. Her respiration improved and she began to breathe better and subsequently gained a few ounces – she was going to live.

Her parents realized they had to locate a supply of goat milk for their newborn daughter. They bought some goats – which was the subsequent creation of their goat dairy business. Eventually they moved their operation from Chatsworth to Ripon – with their herd growing to some 1,500 head.

The dairy would eventually produce some 40 percent of the fresh goat milk in the U.S., shipped to retail stores nationwide.

It was the only goat dairy in the country producing “certified” goat’s milk. The family milked some 900 does daily on their 16-acre Ripon farm.

They averaged just under 4,000 gallons a week. They also produced 21,000 pounds of goat cheese annually.

New home subdivisions, encroaching on their Chatsworth dairy had literally forced their move to Northern California. By that time, Pinky was already heavily involved in the 4-H program.

Pinky’s parents were en route to Sacramento as goat judges when they noticed 48 acres near Highway 99 and the Stanislaus River in Ripon. It was a perfect match for their dairy and they would have highway access for feed and goat trucks.

The Ripon dairy operation here was known as Laurelwood Acres. Highway travelers could see it from the old two-lane Highway 99.

Pinky received her Bachelor of Science degree at the University of California at Davis with a major in home economics and a minor in speech and drama.

Ripon would be her home from then on out – marrying Jack Hawes in 1965. The dairy actually made its physical move to Ripon in 1966 and the newlywed was quick to take on the bookkeeping duties. Husband Jack was involved in the dairy in many roles. It was at its peak operation in the mid-1970s.

Pinky and Jack later traveled throughout the western states on an annual schedule judging goats at county and state fairs for 37 years. One year the Ripon dairy had national champions in all five breeds at the California State Fair in Sacramento.

Their children Kevin and twins Keith and Kristin all had goat 4-H projects in the San Joaquin County Fair and a couple of years at the state fair. One year the Hawes family took some 80 head to the state fair.

They were also involved in Ripon’s Recreation Department youth baseball – season after season – where Jack would coach for the Fisher’s Nursery team for some eight years. He was a great mentor for the kids and a good competitor.

The old site of the goat dairy is now covered with homes and is known as Laurelwood at Ripon Bluffs . Coincidentally, son Kevin and his wife Heidi live there today near where their grandparents, Wes and Betty Nordfelt, once ran the family dairy.

Pinky Hawes loved her job at Weston School.

“I have had a hard time missing the kids,” she said.

When she joined the school district nearly 33 years ago she started with eighth grade teacher Bill Chitwood working on the school paper at Ripon Elementary School. Then she went on to serve as an instructional assistant for resource teacher Phyllis Prewitt when Weston Elementary School opened in the southwest part of town. The principal was Leo Zuber who was then school district superintendent.

She would later move on to the position of “library clerk” and working with children on a day-to-day basis.

“I loved my job as a librarian. I loved to read to the kids,” she said. And today the school folks are asking her to come back to do just that – read to kids again.

She told me she was excited about the prospect of volunteering as soon as she was strong enough. There are two reasons: the children, of course, and the fact that her former principal Delores Carlson was back on staff as a full-time substitute filling in for teacher Cora Garrison who had suddenly passed away.

In fact, it was Mrs. Carlson who had a small heater under her desk – a heater that Pinky would switch on when she was first on campus in the early mornings.

Her church – The Church of Christ – has also been a big part of her life and that of her family. She and Jack – an elder in the church – have been passionately involved in the missions’ support program.

The 2006 Weston School yearbook said it best in its timely dedication to that person on staff who was always bubbly and who was always there for them, Pinky Hawes. The children wrote:

“Mrs. Hawes, thank you for reading us stories and showing us stories and showing us movies to teach us the good values and morals of everyday life.

“You encouraged us to explore the world of reading and to have fun doing it. You’ve been part of our lives at Weston ever since we can remember. You will be greatly missed. See you later alligator – after while crocodile!”

That last line was a favorite with Pinky when the younger students would leave her library. They remembered it in their dedication.

Pinky recalled an incident when a car pulled up next to her in a Ripon parking lot. The teenage driver got out and in recognizing her quoted that familiar phrase: “See you later alligator – after while crocodile!”

You can just imagine the chill of happiness that tugged at her heart at that moment. That former student will never recognize how deeply he touched her with his greeting using her theme line.

Probably her greatest accomplishment – in concert with her husband – is the raising of their three children to become independent people able who are able to think for themselves.

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