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Willis David Hawkins, 1918-2010, and Laureta Pearl Phipps Hawkins, 1925-2010

Married for 63 years, the couple die of pneumonia complications within 24 hours of each other

Laureta and Willis Hawkins passed into our Lord’s eternal care within twenty-four hours of each other this week in Jackson, Michigan. Having shared life together for more than 63 years as husband and wife, their primary request in their later years was to be “kept together.” Little did the family realize how strong was their bond until Laureta passed on Wednesday, March 17, and Willis followed her to heaven on Thursday, March 18, both dying from complications of pneumonia.

Born on July 6, 1918, Willis completed almost 92 years on earth. The fifth of eight children of Albert Norman Hawkins and Lefa Belle Haight Hawkins, Willis was born on the family’s dairy farm near Pinconning, Michigan. He enlisted in the Navy at age 17 during World War II, was stationed in the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, St. Mary’s and San Luis Obispo, and was training to take off and land planes from aircraft carriers in Norman, Oklahoma, when the war ended. After his military service, he completed his junior college education at Spring Arbor College in Spring Arbor, Michigan, his college degree at Greenville College in Greenville, Illinois, his Master’s degree in Education/Guidance and Counseling at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and 30 hours post-graduate at UC Berkeley.

Born on January 16, 1925, Laureta was 85 years of age. The oldest daughter of Allan Edgar Eby Phipps and Pearl Emma Orchard Phipps, Laureta was born in Carsonville, Michigan, where she graduated from high school. She completed two years at the Chicago Evangelistic Institute (CEI) in Chicago, and then transferred to Greenville College, where she met, married and graduated with Willis in 1949. Earning a degree in elementary education, Laureta completed her Master’s degree in education at the University of Michigan with Willis, as well as 30 hours post-graduate in Education/Child Development.

Willis worked for GM in Pontiac and was transferred for a year to the Hotpoint plant in Cleveland, where their first daughter, Cheryl, was born in 1952. After returning to Michigan, both Laureta and Willis taught in Carsonville and Utica, Michigan. Their second daughter, Janeyce, was born in Pontiac, Michigan, in 1955. In 1958, Willis accepted a position at St. Petersburg Junior College in St. Petersburg, Florida, where he worked as Director of Vocational Guidance and Director of Financial Aid for almost 30 years until retirement. Laureta became an accomplished elementary school teacher, splitting her years between kindergarten and second grade in the Pinellas County public school system. When they retired, they designed and built a home in the Light & Life Park in Lakeland, Florida, where they moved to enjoy a relaxed pace with friends and the freedom to travel to see their daughters and family who lived in California. Every summer, they returned to their beloved Michigan to be near extended family and friends until 2008, when they moved into the Ganton retirement community and lived in the Meadows, Oaks, Spring Arbor Assisted Living Center and Arbor Woods for their last years of life.

In Florida, Willis and Laureta expressed their love for Jesus Christ in faithful service to Him in a variety of ministry and leadership positions at Free Methodist Church in St. Petersburg for more than 30 years. They then served at the Light & Life Free Methodist Church in Lakeland for more than 20 years, with Willis serving on the board and Laureta playing the piano and singing in the choir. Along with advancements in their educational careers, both Willis and Laureta enjoyed business pursuits with Willis earning his real estate and stock broker licenses, designing and having several homes built, and enjoying the challenges of investments or “specking” for fun.

Willis and Laureta are survived by their two daughters, Cheryl Lynne Hawkins Wayman and Janeyce Dawn Hawkins Ouellette; their grandsons, Benjamin Wayman and Timothy Wayman; and their great-grandchildren Caden, Brooke and Cole Wayman. They are also survived by the siblings of Willis: David Hawkins, Eldon Hawkins and Ileen Hawkins Decker, and the siblings of Laureta: Leonard Phipps, Brad Phipps and Beverly Phipps Wiedefeld. They are survived as well by a large extended family of nephews and nieces, grand-nephews and grand-nieces, spouses and children, along with many dear friends in the family of God. They are preceded to heaven by their parents and Willis’ older siblings, Elsie Hawkins Henderson, Lois Hawkins Steele, Albert Hawkins and Floyd Hawkins, as well as Laureta’s older sisters, Mildred Phipps Whiting and Ersel Phipps Getsinger Boileau.

The joint funeral service for Willis and Laureta Hawkins will be held on Friday, March 26, at the Chapel in the Spring Arbor Free Methodist Church at 10:30 a.m. Viewing will immediately precede the service and interment will immediately follow the service in Spring Arbor Cemetery.

Memorial gifts in lieu of flowers may be sent to their favorite charities: the Food Pantry at Spring Arbor Free Methodist Church; St. Paul’s Free Methodist Church or Greenville College in Greenville, Illinois; or Cliff Drive Christian Counseling Center in Santa Barbara.

Willis and Laureta would say: “Bye for now.”

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