Obituary of James Arthur Hawley
James "Jim" Arthur Hawley, 76, died on March 18, 2023 at Holly Heights Nursing Care Center in Denver, Colorado. Jim suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, the progression of which was devastating. But thanks to the wonderful staff at Holly Heights, Jim lived his final years in a place where he felt safe and loved. Through simple daily tasks and connection, Jim’s caretakers gave him what he cherished most in life: purpose.
Jim was born on January 31, 1947 in Twin Falls, Idaho, the oldest of two. His childhood was a happy one in which neighborhood kids gathered regularly for football games, tag, and hide-and-seek. He was a natural leader, and the other kids looked up to him—especially his younger sister Lynn. Jim and Lynn remained close throughout his life.
Jim loved his baseball cards and kept them meticulously organized. He was a fan of all southern sports teams, covering his bedroom walls in banners of his favorites: Auburn, Alabama, Tulane, Old Miss, and Georgia.
At Twin Falls High School, Jim played baseball and football, graduating in 1965. He then attended the University of Idaho where he joined the ROTC Air Force, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History and Education in 1969. Jim received a commission as Second Lieutenant after graduation. While awaiting orders from the Air Force, Jim returned home and began substitute teaching at his old high school. James was an empathetic and enthusiastic teacher; he loved nurturing knowledge and curiosity in his students.
In the early 1970’s, Jim was deployed to Thailand for a one-year tour of duty in the Vietnam War as a navigator on a KC-135 Gunship. After Thailand, he went to Mather Air Force Base for more navigator training, and then to Plattsburgh Air Force Base where he was stationed as a navigator for KC-135 Refuelers for two years. Later in life, Jim didn’t talk much about his service in the war—the memories were too painful. But he was a decorated veteran with a Distinguished Flying Cross, awarded for acts of heroism, along with an Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, and a Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon.
The military also took Jim to Okinawa, where his first daughter was born, and Guam, where his second daughter was born. He was so thrilled to become a dad. Jim served 20 years honorably in the US Air Force from April, 1971 to April, 1991 having achieved the rank of Major.
After his time in the military, Jim went back to school, earning a master’s in history and a second master’s in science and systems management. He loved to learn, and gobbled up new knowledge whenever and wherever he could.
In 1985, he moved to Warner Robins, Georgia, which would become home for most of the rest of his life.
The military introduced Jim to the thrill of seeing new places, but it wasn’t until his daughter, Cheryl, began working as a flight attendant that he really caught the travel bug. James started joining Cheryl for work trips. Together they saw Thailand, Dubai, Rio, Sydney, Rome, Paris, London, Brussels, and Hawaii, among many other destinations. Jim and Cheryl had a similar travel style—even though Cheryl liked to sleep in and Jim was often trying to rouse her from sleep to start exploring. They both loved to learn everything they could about the culture and history of a place. They both had endless questions for the locals, hungry to know how and why about everything.
Jim loved international travel, but he didn’t have to go far to feel the pleasure of moving through the world. James loved to walk. Neighbors knew him as the guy who walked by their homes every day, always with a friendly smile or a wave. He often walked six miles a day.
One walk in particular changed Jim’s life when he passed by a yard in disrepair. He’d been noticing it for some time—the long, tangled grass and weeds standing out in an otherwise manicured neighborhood. That day he went home and brought back his lawnmower. Turns out, an elderly couple lived in the house, and their dwindling health made it impossible to keep up with the housework. Not only did Jim start visiting regularly to help out, they all became dear friends. When the husband had to move to an assisted living facility, Jim started visiting his wife Helen daily, driving to her appointments, bringing groceries, and keeping her company. When she, too, was moved to assisted living, he became a daily visitor there, playing cards with her and her friends. Jim hardly ever missed a day—he was the only one in the group who could shuffle, afterall.
This friendship, born from an act of kindness, was an illustration of how Jim lived his life, every day. If you needed something from Jim—whether you were family, friend, or stranger—his hand was outstretched with whatever you needed and more. He lived to help others, and he thought little of his own needs. Jim was happiest when he could see that he’d made someone’s day a little better. He truly had a heart of gold.
Jim showed kindness and generosity to everyone he met. But he reserved the best of himself for his daughters—Sheila, Cheryl, and Shanon—whom he adored. Jim raised three girls as a single parent, but no one ever heard him complain about how hard it was. Through all the challenges and hardships of parenting solo, Jim’s daughters brought him great joy.
Jim was also grandfather to Sheila’s son Kayden. Sadly, he never had the chance to meet Kayden, but he would have loved his grandson with his whole heart.
The love Jim poured into the world will be felt by so many, long after he’s gone. He found great purpose in helping others. And while few people can match Jim’s kindness and generosity, his memory will inspire all of us to try.
In lieu of flowers the family asks that donations be made to the following charities in memory of James Hawley.
For victims of Elder Abuse
Help fight Alzheimer's