A commitment to excellence served Fred H. Hawkins Sr. well throughout his life as a Husker athlete, construction magnate, sportsman and civic leader.
“The primary thing dad taught his children was to do things right,” said his son Kim Hawkins, 60, the youngest of three children. “Dad measured people based upon their effort and commitment and not the size of their wallet or (academic) degree.”
Fred Hawkins, 88, died in his Omaha home Friday night. There will be a funeral service Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. at Dundee Presbyterian Church.
Hawkins had a deep love of Nebraska and relished his time spent as a youth with his maternal grandparents in Blue Hill, a town about 20 miles south of Hastings. He often talked about the hunting, fishing and model airplane building he did as a child, his son said.
At the University of Nebraska in Lincoln in 1949, Hawkins started at offensive guard while lining up next to the legendary Tom Novak, whom he called the toughest man he ever met.
His proudest accomplishment as a Husker, his son said, was scoring a touchdown after picking up a fumble.
After graduation, Hawkins and his father, Kenneth, formed Hawkins Construction Co., which became one of the top contractors in the United States. The company built miles of Interstate highways, bridges and airports, and hundreds of buildings in Nebraska and surrounding states.
“Their first big job was one that could make or break the company ... the Omaha sewage treatment plant,” Kim Hawkins said. “It was do or die.”
The elder Hawkins shepherded many other Omaha landmark projects, including the City-County Building and the Gene Leahy Mall.
He turned over operation of the construction company to his sons, Kim and Fred Jr., in 1980 and started another chapter of his life as a civic leader.
In 1999 he was named to the Omaha Business Hall of Fame by the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, an award of which he was most proud, Kim Hawkins said. The University of Nebraska honored him with its Business Leadership and Entrepreneur of the Year awards, and he is in the Nebraska Hall of Fame.
His civic involvement included longtime support for the Aksarben organization and serving on the board of Bellevue University.
Hawkins loved to hunt duck, pheasant, quail and deer. His competitive nature sometimes made the hunt difficult for others because Hawkins was quick on the trigger and seldom missed.
“I think the time spent with his grandparents in Blue Hill was dad’s paradise because of everything that he learned there,” Kim Hawkins said.
“After he retired, he spent half the year in Florida, but Nebraska had his heart, and he never changed his home address even though Florida has no state income tax.”
In addition to his sons, Hawkins is survived by his wife, Pattie; daughter, Susan; eight grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents, Kenneth and Josephine, his first wife, Tish, and his sister, Sadie.
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