Kindness was the foundation of everything Alan Hawkins did as an educator, husband, father and friend.

A longtime former teacher and administrator in South Portland and Cape Elizabeth schools, Hawkins died Saturday at Gosnell Memorial Hospice House in Scarborough. He was a cancer survivor who fought illness with a smile, ultimately succumbing to a long battle with heart disease. He was 72.

Alan Hawkins, pictured in 2002, when he was principal of Memorial Middle School in South Portland and shortly before he became superintendent of Wiscasset schools. He was superintendent in Cape Elizabeth from 2005 until he retired in 2011. Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

Hawkins leaves behind a personal and professional legacy that cannot be untwined because he gave so much of himself on the job and elsewhere, especially as a mentor to other teachers and administrators.

“He was kind to everybody, no matter what, even if they weren’t very kind to him,” said Dominic DePatsy, superintendent of Saco schools. “He touched the lives of so many people through the years – students, teachers, administrators, community members.”

Hawkins mentored DePatsy when he was director of special services in Cape schools, where Hawkins was superintendent from 2005 until his retirement in 2011. Hawkins became a father figure to DePatsy, who had recently lost his own dad. DePatsy also did his superintendent internship with Hawkins, who showed him the value of listening to others, among many other lessons.

“Listening to people – that was one of his best traits,” DePatsy said. “I try to follow his example and it’s not easy for me.”

Born in Lincoln, an hour north of Bangor, Hawkins graduated from the University of Maine at Farmington and taught for a few years in Millinocket before taking a job in South Portland in 1972. He taught fifth and sixth grades at Small Elementary School for a decade before becoming principal in 1983, then served as principal of Memorial Middle School for several years.

After getting a master’s degree in educational leadership at the University of Southern Maine, he was the first pick to become superintendent of Wiscasset schools in 2002, then rounded out his career as the schools chief in Cape Elizabeth.

“He was a natural teacher and leader,” said his wife, Margaret Hawkins, who recently retired as a longtime teacher and principal in South Portland. “He found joy in both teaching and being an administrator. He loved being a mentor.”

Through it all, students were his top priority.

“He always felt strongly that the needs of the students came first and he had a soft spot for the special needs community,” his wife said. “When he was a principal, he greeted students at the door each morning. After he retired, wherever we went, we ran into students who would thank him.”

Aaron Filieo remembers Hawkins as his “first principal.” Now a seventh-grade teacher at Cape Elizabeth Middle School and head football coach at South Portland High School, Filieo was a student at Small Elementary School when Hawkins was principal there.

“He was a giant of a man,” Filieo recalled. “He loomed large both physically and in his kindness and compassion toward others. As a principal, he was as sweet and endearing as any parent could want for their child.”

Hawkins’ example inspired Filieo to become a teacher, and the two reconnected when Hawkins became superintendent in Cape Elizabeth.

“He definitely was a role model for me,” Filieo said. “As a young child, he made an impression on me, and as an adult I regularly sought advice and guidance from him.”

Illness challenged Hawkins many times over the last 20 years, his wife said. Diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2000, he took a leave of absence and underwent chemotherapy before a stem cell transplant saved his life. In recent weeks, a heart valve needed mending. After two previous open heart surgeries, doctors said another would be too dangerous. He thanked them for their expertise and elected to go into hospice care.

“He never got discouraged,” his wife said. “He never said ‘why me?’ He was always positive and he kept me positive.”

In his spare time, Hawkins distinguished himself as a historian and genealogist, publishing several titles on the histories of Lincoln and Burlington, his ancestors and memories from his childhood. Married in 1976, he and his wife shared a great love of gardening and enjoyed untold hours tending the flower beds and other plantings around their home in South Portland.

“We had a great life together,” Margaret Hawkins said.

He was most proud of their two daughters. Emily Hawkins is general manager of teacher-focused Stenhouse Publishers in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Katie Hawkins Vail is a lawyer at Hudson Cook in Portland. They were devoted to him. He was a dynamic role model for them.

“I learned to respect everyone and find the good in everyone and everything,” Hawkins Vail said. “I learned to be patient and kind and learned to never give up.”

In his final days at Gosnell House, about 40 people visited Hawkins. Family members and friends got to see him one last time. For those who loved him, it’s an incredible loss.

“I’ll miss having him there to talk to,” Hawkins Vail said. “I’ll miss the way he supported us and the way he loved us. The truth is, we know he will always be with us. We know he will always be proud of us and love us. It’s going to be a huge void for all of us.”

Visiting hours will be held 4 to 8 p.m. Friday at the Conroy-Tully Walker Funeral Home, 1024 Broadway, South Portland. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the South Portland High School auditorium, 637 Highland Ave.

As an alternative to flowers, memorial donations may be made to: South Portland Historical Society, 55 Bug Light Park, South Portland, ME 04106, or South Portland Food Cupboard, 130 Thadeus St., South Portland, ME 04106.

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer contributed to this article.


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