WEST FARMINGTON -?At the age of 86, Ruth Jean Hawkins recently retired after nearly 27 years as the director of the Farmington Senior Center where she has become a well-known member of the northern Trumbull County community.
Almost every day since 1984, Hawkins would leave her home and arrive at the nearby center where she would start the coffee, open the doors and greet the many people who would stop by.
Hawkins started as the center director in 1984 when it opened, and it soon became her second home. She stayed there until her retirement just last month.
Tribune Chronicle photos / Bob Coupland
Community Star Ruth Jean Hawkins is shown with one of the lap blankets she made for the Middlefield Nursing Home.
She and her late husband, Dick, had gone to the Trumbull County Planning Commission with hopes of starting the center. The commission helped them to obtain an $85,000 grant for a center, which eventually was built next to the fire station at the village center.
"Some said it couldn't be done and we proved we could,'' she said.
The center averages about 30 visitors per day who take part in various activities, enjoy meals, attend health fairs and listen to guest speakers.
NAME: Ruth Jean Hawkins
ADDRESS: West Farmington
YEARS LIVING HERE: 66 years
COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES / MEMBERSHIPS: Farmington Senior Center, St. Edwards Catholic Church of Parkman, Women's Relief Corps.
Over the years the center has added a kitchen stove, a wheelchair ramp, a refrigerator and a new addition to the building with help from another grant.
"I think my proudest moment is seeing the center grow and getting to meet all the great people who come here and never have to leave as a stranger. I get a lot of hugs from all the people I see," Hawkins said.
Hawkins said after living more than 65 years in West Farmington she has learned that everyone knows one another.
"You are not afraid. Everyone knows everyone else here and supports each other," she said.
Hawkins and others at the center spend time making lap robes and stocking caps which she takes to the Middlefield Nursing Home for the past 32 years.
In recent years, she has delivered more than 400 lap robes to the nursing home.
Hawkins said the center is like a second home for so many people who enjoy spending time there. It is open to all ages with many grandparents bringing their grandchildren to the center when there is a snow day from school or a holiday.
"Many grandparents say their grandchildren tell them they want to go to the center," she said,
Even Hawkins' 4-year-old yorkie poo, "Molly" feels at home at the center. Hawkins said she brings the small dog, that has become so popular it acts as the center's mascot.
"I brought her when she was six weeks old," Hawkins said.
Hawkins is active in the community often attending both the West Farmington village council and Farmington township trustee meetings.
Diane Drawl, who nominated Hawkins for the award, said she had visited the center last year when Hawkins had the Christmas village display set up. The Christmas display has been done for many years and includes an extensive village on top of a snowy blanket made to look like multiple villages on a snow-covered mountain. There also many lighting affects, moving parts, a train and an amusement park.
''That was the first time I had met her. I am amazed at her energy and enthusiasm and the pride she shares with her local and extended community with her service at the center. She is there from when the center opens until it closes,'' Drawl said.
''She has done such much for West Farmington,'' she said.
Drawl said Hawkins provides a wonderful atmosphere at the center so that people can congregate and socialize.
''She obviously enjoys her time there as her smiling face is one of the first to greet you when you walk through the door,'' Drawl said.
Amber Hawkins said her grandmother has been ''a pillar of West Farmington and the Senior Center.'' She said just as the center has become a staple in the community so has her grandmother.
''The best times of her life have come from the experiences created at the senior center. Her family and friends always knew where to find her if she wasn't at home,'' she said.