Hawley's impact on McPherson baseball will be missed

By Steve Sell
December 17, 2013

McPherson became a much-lesser place on Sunday with the passing of Kermit Hawley, who lost his courageous battle with cancer.

Many of you probably knew Kermit for his 42 years of employment with the McPherson Postal Service. He served in a variety of capacities, but was best known for his years as the window clerk. There was no problem “Kermy” couldn’t solve for a customer and always did it with a cheery disposition. And he was revered by his fellow workers, who held him only in the highest regard. 

I, however, knew Kermit more for his seemingly infinite years of involvement with the McPherson Babe Ruth baseball program. He volunteered his time and energy for an amazing 50 years, coaching the Elks team for some 20 years and later served on local and state Babe Ruth boards. His dedication to the organization resulted in his induction into the Kansas Babe Ruth Hall of Fame, which gave him pride like nothing else except for his own family.

Kermit, a McPherson native, loved to watch, talk and live baseball, just like the late Bob “Hoop” Hooper. He would stop in frequently when I worked at The Sentinel, since he knew my sports roots were in baseball, even though the sport somewhat waned in popularity as the years went by.

When I switched jobs in 2012, Kermit made it a point early on to stop in and congratulate me on my new endeavor. I always welcomed his company. He often told me how much he enjoyed the work I did and was one of my most ardent supporters. If he liked a column, he would tell me. If he didn’t, he would tell me as well. But I always respected his opinion either way.

Baseball in McPherson was huge in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, due greatly to Kermit’s passion. I know how much it pained him when times changed and traveling teams became all the rage, which considerably weakened the Babe Ruth program. The McPherson program had been one of the state’s strongest, but started to wither before finally becoming basically silent. 

Still, Kermit had great impact on Babe Ruth baseball in Kansas. I know when he passed, he did so with a smile since Galva native Brad Hill joined him this summer in the Kansas Babe Ruth Hall of Fame. It was one of Kermit’s final accomplishments, as he felt Hill was long overdue to be included. For those who are in their younger years, Hill was a football and basketball star at Canton-Galva who played his summer baseball in McPherson in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He later turned in a record-breaking career at Emporia State and was talented enough to spend some time in the Texas Rangers’ organization.

Hill, of course, has gone on to become one of the top college baseball coaches in the country (he’s now at Kansas State) and when Kermit and I would talk about him, his eyes would sparkle with pride. He was grateful to be a small part of Hill’s evolution in the sport.

Kermit also supported other sports in McPherson. For many years he sat behind me at the Roundhouse and was a huge basketball fan. He would come up to me before or after games to see what I thought of the Bullpups and to also let me know that “baseball season was just around the corner.”

And Kermit was about more than just sports. He was a volunteer for the McPherson Humane Society for many years and served on the organization’s board. He loved McPherson and did anything he could to make it a better place for all of us.

Kermit was a wonderful family man. He is survived by his wife and four children, 10 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Funeral services for Kermit are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Thursday at the First United Methodist Church and I’m sure many of the longtime Babe Ruth officers will be on hand. Visitation will be from 3 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Stockham Family Funeral Home, with the family receiving friends from 6 to 8 p.m.

According to a press release, the Kansas Babe Ruth Hall of Fame is reserved for individuals who display great personal strength, honesty, integrity, enthusiasm, a love for the game and put the interest of others first.

That describes Kermit perfectly.

The baseball season won’t seem the same without Kermit. Or life in general. Rest in peace, my dear friend. We’ll take in a game when my time comes to join you and maybe “Hoop” will join us as well.