Russell Dalton Hawkins

Hawkins, Russell

Russell D. Hawkins passed away on Wednesday, May 3, 2017 of congestive heart failure at Kansas City Hospice House. He was 87. 

Russ was born on April 28, 1930 in Valley Park, MO to Isabelle Pauline (Hewitt) Hawkins and Dalton Thomas (Bud) Hawkins. He graduated from Valley Park High School as president of the senior class in 1947. He worked for three years before attending Central Methodist College in Fayette, MO. He graduated in 1954 with a major in art and a minor in Spanish. He enlisted in the U.S. Army and spent two years in Seoul, Korea serving as Chaplain’s Assistant from 1954-1956.

Russ married Patricia Harrell in 1959; they were married 15 years, and had three children. 

Russ married his second wife Helma (Rohrer) Hawkins in 1975; together they had a blended family of seven children: Pamela Hawkins; Lori Hawkins Wilcoxen (Tim); Kevin Hawkins; William Hendley (Jon Albert); Andrew Hendley; Megan Hendley Monarez (René); and Jennifer Hendley Alexander. 

A United Methodist clergyman for 41 years, Russ attended seminary from 1957-1961 at Garrett Biblical Institute in Evanston, IL. He graduated with a Masters of Divinity in 1961. He began his career as Associate Pastor at Grace United Methodist Church (UMC) in St. Louis, MO until 1964. He then served as senior pastor of Williams Memorial UMC in O’Fallon, MO. In 1966 he moved to Kansas City, MO to be senior pastor of Country Club UMC where he served for four years. In 1970 he founded Kairos, a United Methodist Church, a “church without walls” committed to social justice. During this time Russ also served as part-time pastor of Community Congregational Church.

In 1970 Russ was featured in the film “Crisis in the Ministry,” produced by Cathedral Films, Inc. He represented clergy who had chosen to stay in the ministry while struggling with social and racial justice issues in their congregations.

In 1979 Russ moved to Colorado Springs, CO where he became a member of the Rocky Mountain Conference of the United Methodist Church and served Good Shepherd UMC in Security/Widefield; First UMC in Gillette, WY; Good Shepherd UMC in Thornton, CO and Grant Avenue UMC in Denver. When he returned to Kansas City Russ was pastor of Westminster Congregational Church and then Kairos UMC again.

Russ was involved in social justice issues throughout his life. His compassion and concern for the LGBT community began during his college years when a friend of his was kicked out of school simply because the administration found out that he was gay. When one of his sons came out, Russ joined PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), first in Denver and then in Kansas City. Russ was part of the Speaker’s Bureau and edited the newsletter for the Kansas City PFLAG chapter for many years. Russ was also active in the Reconciling Congregations movement and the Parents Reconciling Network. He wrote a powerful Statement of Commitment testimony regarding the United Methodist stand on homosexual unions. (See

Russ was an early supporter of persons with AIDS; he was the first chair of the Rocky Mountain AIDS Taskforce. Good Shepherd UMC in Thornton became an AIDS Aware Church under his leadership, and he was active in the Colorado AIDS Project. Once back in Kansas City he was a volunteer for North Care Hospice which served many AIDS patients.

Russ was an activist for racial justice issues, especially during the turbulent years of the late 1960s. He was active in Dinners for Ten and in the establishment of the 49-63 Coalition. He promoted peace issues, including nuclear disarmament, and human rights. He was the spokesperson for a group challenging the funding of Kemper Arena with taxpayer money.

Russ’s involvement in the arts included singing, theater, painting, and photography. At Central Methodist College he won the Kirby Prize for oil painting; he also won an “Oscar” for his leading role in the play “Claudia,” and was selected to be included in “Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities.” Russ continued his drama activities in his churches in Colorado Springs, Gillette, and Denver. He starred in such plays as “The Marriage Proposal,” “It’s In the Book,” and “Harvey,” among others; he also starred as Bertram Oleander in the melodrama “Egad, What a Cad!” at Grant Avenue UMC in Denver.

Growing up, Russ and his brother Jerry sang duets at church. Russ was a soloist with the Eighth U.S. Army Chapel Choir which toured Korea and Japan performing in Army Service Clubs. He directed the children’s choir at Good Shepherd UMC in Colorado Springs; he led children’s singing for many activities at the Campbell County Public Library in Gillette, WY. He led the bass section in choirs in all the churches he served and sang many solos through the years.

Russ was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2010. He became active in the Alzheimer’s Association’s Heart of America chapter and participated in their Memories in the Making group, painting with watercolors. For four years one of his paintings was selected for their annual Art Auction.

Photography has been a lifelong hobby for Russ; he was known for not going anywhere without his beloved Nikon camera around his neck. He loved photographing both nature and people. He made home movies and later DVDs of family and friends, did portraits and group shots for organizations. He did promotional photography for Reach Out and Read Kansas City and for Paul Mesner Puppets. He also had a few modeling jobs with Talent Unlimited when folks took photographs of him!

Russ is survived by his wife Helma, their seven children, thirteen grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, and his brother Jerry (Vicki) Hawkins.

A memorial service will be held on Sunday, June 4 at 2 p.m. at Country Club Congregational United Church of Christ, 205 West 65th Street, Kansas City, MO 64113.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to: Alzheimer’s Association – Heart of America chapter, Country Club Congregational United Church of Christ, or Kansas City Hospice House.


  1. Kristen Krogman on May 25, 2017 at 4:56 am

    Words fail my sorrow for the loss of such a fun, sweet, loving man. It was a blessing to have known you both. So many hugs and prayers I have for you, Helma. A big “gotcha” for Russ, too. You both mean so much to me, though we only spent such a short time together. I love you.

  2. Richard and Jamie Lee on May 20, 2017 at 10:58 am

    Darling, Helma and kids….we heard of your loss thru our PFLAG family still in Kansas City. Russ was such a light to us when we first started coming to meetings and such a joy to be around. All who knew him were touched in a remarkable way. I’m sorry for those who will never have that opportunity, and yet, oh so glad that we were two of the lucky ones.
    We’ll see him on the other side–in the meantime, we press on with the work that we do.
    Much love to you all,
    Richard and Jamie Lee

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