Huron East's Jan Hawley honoured with main street send-off
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
On Monday, many lined the streets of Seaforth in order to honour Huron East Economic Development Officer Jan Hawley, who passed away suddenly on Tuesday, March 16, 2021. She was 68.
Dozens lined Seaforth’s main street on Monday afternoon as a hearse carrying Hawley made its way through the community on its way to the Seaforth Golf and Country Club, a location Hawley loved. For “Jan’s Final Farewell” those taking part were asked to line the street and give her a wave as she went by, borrowing from one of her recent successes, a video promoting Seaforth to the tune of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Looking Out My Back Door”.
Some who attended dressed to the nines for the occasion, while others carried signs touting the good Hawley had done for the community. The sentiment was echoed by Wes Elmes, a funeral director for Haskett Funeral Homes.
Taking to a podium in front of town hall, Elmes, who called the structure Hawley’s second home, spoke of the recognition and respect that Hawley had garnered both at home and across the country for her work to put Huron East on the map. He also spoke to how, no matter what challenge she was faced with, Hawley persevered to provide the people of Huron East with the best representation possible, because she considered them family.
The entire ceremony was broadcast on the municipality’s Facebook page and can be viewed there.
Hawley was born Jan Anderson in London, Ontario and attended high school in Dorchester, followed by studying kinesiology at the University of Waterloo. She met her husband Albert Hawley, who predeceased her in 1994, in London.
Her passing evoked numerous heartfelt tributes on social media from co-workers, friends, economic development colleagues and business owners she had helped along the way in her years in the business.
“To Jan’s family, we extend our sincere condolences,” wrote Huron East Councillor Larry McGrath and his wife Dianne on the Haskett Funeral Homes website. “Jan’s bigger-than-life presence and enthusiasm will be missed by her many friends, colleagues and ratepayers of Huron East, the community she loved. Our thoughts are with you.”
Chief Administrative Officer Brad Knight said Hawley was a one-of-a-kind employee with the municipality, where she began her work in 2008.
“Jan has been with us at the Municipality of Huron East since 2008. She brought a level of dedication and enthusiasm for both her position and the Municipality of Huron East that is hard to match. We will certainly miss her presence in both the Town Hall and throughout the Municipality of Huron East,” Knight said.
Dr. Chris Cooper, Hawley’s frequent collaborator, even created a special memorial video for her, posting it to social media.
In an interview with The Citizen, Huron East Mayor Bernie MacLellan said his loss of a friend in Hawley preceded any thoughts of losing her in the context of her work for the municipality.
He said the day Hawley passed away, he was just in shock and that he couldn’t process the news beyond that. The next day, however, it sunk in that he had lost one of his dear friends.
Hawley would often call him excited at all hours of the day about a project for Huron East and MacLellan acted as her sounding board and one of her biggest supporters.
“I always had her back and supported her work 100 per cent,” MacLellan said. “I always believed in Jan and the work she did for the municipality.”
In his opinion, MacLellan said Hawley’s legacy will be the “Win This Space” competition she helped to popularize in Huron East, Huron County and numerous communities around Ontario. When she would travel outside of the county to spread the word of the successful initiative, MacLellan said, she would never charge for consultation, only ask that the Municipality of Huron East was credited for its help. MacLellan said he felt her attitude towards sharing that information for free really “told a story”.
The work Hawley did for Huron East, MacLellan said, was a passion for Hawley and it wasn’t a job for her.
He said he felt the gathering on Seaforth’s main street would be fitting for Hawley and the impact she had on the community. He went on to say he felt it was an appropriate send-off for someone so beloved throughout the community and ending at the golf course, a place she loved so much.
The Seaforth Golf and Country Club will play host to a celebration of life for Hawley at a later date.
Donations to the Huron Residential Hospice or a charity of one’s choice in Hawley’s name would be appreciated by her family.