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Published: Friday, 5/7/2010

Principal also served city schools as a retiree

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Gussie L. Hawkins, 74, a retired elementary principal in the Toledo Public Schools who returned as a substitute administrator, died from complications of a stroke Tuesday in Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center.

Mrs. Hawkins, of North Toledo, was principal of Edgewater Elementary School from 1989 to 1998. Earlier, she was principal for more than a decade at Washington Elementary, which closed in 1989.

"She retired and kept going," her daughter Waverley said.

One postretirement duty was to help schools in the district administer proficiency tests.

"My mom said, 'They need the old heads,' so they would call them in to help, because they were more knowledgeable about the process," her daughter said.

She was a principal of Pickett Elementary and, decades after she was a student there, of Washington Elementary. From the late 1970s into the early '80s, daughter Waverley was a Washington student. Mrs. Hawkins thought it best, for professionalism's sake, that at school her daughter call her what everyone else did.

"It was a little difficult to call her 'Mrs. Hawkins,'•" her daughter said. "I think I was able to do it a little bit, sporadically. The first thing that came out of my mouth was 'Mommy.'•"

She expected respect, and it arrived without force. "She was naturally respected [by] the other educators, [people] outside of the schools, the students," her daughter said. "Her leadership, especially as a woman, was dominant and strong."

Mrs. Hawkins' sister Iris Brownlee said: "She knew how to get people to work together for a common goal. She was an organizer."

Mrs. Hawkins became a Toledo teacher in 1959 and was an eighth-grade science teacher at the former Gunckel School, where Mrs. Brownlee was in her class one year.

"I had to do a little more than the other students to make the grade" - it was an A, Mrs. Brownlee recalled, adding, "I earned that A.

"It was a wonderful experience to have your sister as an educator and to have someone to look up to. She embraced all of her brothers and sisters and directed them in their pursuit of a higher education," said Mrs. Brownlee, a second grade teacher at Lagrange Elementary School.

Born in Rover, Ga., she moved north with her family in 1946, Mrs. Brownlee said. The family settled at 644 Indiana Ave., next door to Indiana Avenue Missionary Baptist Church, where later Mrs. Hawkins would teach Sunday school, serve on the Mothers Board, and direct vacation Bible school.

She was a graduate of Scott High School. She had bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Toledo and a specialist's degree from Western Michigan University.

She was a member of the Toledo Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta and the Beta Gamma Chapter of Phi Delta Kappa.

Surviving are her husband, Walter, whom she married July 2, 1955; daughters, Amber and Waverley Hawkins; brother, William Curtis; sisters, Barbara Williams, Dorothy Willis, Iris Brownlee, and Nowel Brown, and two grandchildren.

Services will be at 4 p.m. Sunday in Indiana Avenue Missionary Baptist Church, with a family hour starting at 3 p.m. Arrangements are by the

C. Brown Funeral Home.

Contact Mark Zaborney at:

mzaborney@theblade.com

or 419-724-6182.



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