Kate was one of the Indian Creek Nature Center staff’s favorite friends. With her positivity and enthusiasm, she could light up a room just by being in it. And she was a fabulous ambassador, often bringing friends with her as she introduced them to ICNC or to a project or event here. Kate took on many roles over the years at ICNC, including Paddle Day participant, Maple Syrup Festival volunteer, event attendee, Nature’s Noel vending with daughter Sarah (pictured with Kate above), annual member (followed by lifetime member since 2018), trail hiker, advisor, cheerleader, and financial supporter.
Kate was a master of expressing gratitude, which was on full display in this message she sent to the Nature Center years ago: “I’ve been walking on the trail by the creek lately and it is so beautiful with the purple wild phlox and the brilliant green ground cover. Thank you for working so hard to preserve our environment and making it available to the public–me. And I’m grateful to the people who dreamed of the Nature Center, saw it become a reality, and to all those who’ve helped uphold it and make it grow. Thank you!” We continue to treasure Kate’s words and the sense of wonder she found in nature, and take them to heart as we approach ICNC’s 50th Year (2023).
After a day of volunteering at the 2015 Maple Syrup Festival, when all activities still took place at the Penningroth Barn, Kate shared her thoughts about the experience in a letter to ICNC Executive Director John Myers: “I worked at the Indian Creek Nature Center’s Maple Syrup Festival yesterday and experienced such joy! It seemed like half of Cedar Rapids was there.” She took delight in everything from the food to her fellow volunteers to families checking out the exhibits to the musical entertainment to the syruping process, which was on display at the Sugar House and in the yard. She ended with: “What a wonderful event! And I didn’t see any handheld devices but lots of loving, real communication between parents, children and friends.”
In 2018 Kate participated in ICNC’s Amazing Space project by making a major donation to the endowment, allowing her to name the “Lee Hawkins Memorial Bee Exhibit & Classroom.” Leland “Lee” Hawkins, who was married to Kate from 1956 until he died in 1991, was an orthopedic surgeon and avid beekeeper who shared his dedication to that hobby – and educating people about beekeeping – with ICNC and its visitors decades ago.
We miss Kate deeply but will remember her, along with Lee, for their legacy of championing nature in our midst. Our sincere condolences go to her children Sarah and Foster, her grandchildren and extended family, and the many friends Kate made so effortlessly.