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Vail K. Hawkins

“Shall we gather at the river … the beautiful, beautiful river”

Vail Kugler Hawkins spent 87 years gathering by the river — in Washington, at the Kugler family homes that once anchored the corner of Water and Bonner streets; at Hawkins Beach, where every summer was spent at the old Kugler camp, and trips “to town” happened only twice a month.

She met her husband of 42 years, Jesse Harold Hawkins Jr., at the river; after their marriage in 1955, they built a life together on the shores of the Pamlico at Hawkins Beach. When she passed away peacefully on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, she was at home, surrounded by family, the river within sight.

Though Vail was born in Rocky Mount, the family soon moved to Washington. Vail was a graduate of Washington High School and St. Mary’s Junior College, and worked as a secretary at Rumley Motor Company, a teacher’s aide at Bath High School and at the Beaufort County Board of Elections. Her true vocation, however, was family: raising her three sons, Jess, Frank and John, and when Harold passed away unexpectedly in 1997, she found new purpose in life by devoting herself fully to helping raise her grandchildren and being the wonderful “Nana” that she was. 

Vail’s love of family was not limited to the immediate, but lovingly embraced her three sisters, a slew of cousins, and her many nieces and nephews, who loved her dearly in return. They, like all who knew Vail well, also dearly loved the magic that came from her kitchen — Italian cream cake, that 6-layer cake with handmade chocolate icing, blueberry cobbler and buttery biscuits like no other. Each was made in her oven, but each, really, came from her heart. 

Hers was a servant’s heart. She was a lifelong member of First Presbyterian Church of Washington (the Kuglers once had “their own pew” come Sunday mornings). For eight years, she served as Circle 3 leader alongside her cousin, Mary Asby, in the Presbyterian Women. Her gift of ministry was in serving others, and she did so often without notice, in a spirit of humbleness and humility. The Helping Hands ministry was especially dear to her heart, as she was able to bring meals and words of comfort during visits to members of her church family experiencing challenging times. In 2009, the church recognized her love for serving others in the name of Jesus with the Presbyterian Women Honorary Life Membership, an award which was also shared by her grandmother, mother, sister and cousin, dating back to 1947.

Vail was a generous spirit, sharing her time and her wisdom, which was always delivered in a thoughtful, measured way, and often laced with a dry, subtle wit. She was an avid reader — some of her wisdom likely stemmed from that passion, but certainly not the majority. Her wisdom came from a life well-lived, in the place she loved most, and time to reflect during daily walks down the dirt road to visit family, framed by tall pines on one side and the river she so loved on the other.

There are so many who have shared, and will continue to share, what she held dear.

Vail was preceded in death by her husband, Jesse Harold Hawkins Jr.; her parents, Frank Cannon Kugler Jr. and Viola Freeman Kugler; and two sisters, Jane Kugler Ross and Franke Kugler Rumley.

She is survived by her sons, Jesse Harold Hawkins III and wife Diane, of Morehead City, Frank Cannon Kugler Hawkins and wife Jennifer, of Wilmington, and John MacDonald Hawkins and wife Brenda, of Hawkins Beach; her grandchildren, Leigh Hawkins, Mari Hawkins Dunn and husband Logan, Mariah Hawkins Edwards and husband James, Jensen Hawkins, Cannon Hawkins, Nathan Hawkins and Shane Hawkins; great-grandchildren, Cora Vail, Sadie and James Edwards IV. She is also survived by her sister, Reid Kugler Solomon, her husband, Joe, and brother-in-law Stewart Rumley. She will always be lovingly remembered by numerous cousins, nieces, nephews and friends.

Vail’s Celebration of Life was held at 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 6, 2021, at First Presbyterian Church, Washington, with Rev. Cleve Edwards officiating. Visitation with the family followed the service in the church Fellowship Hall. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial gifts be made in Vail’s memory to the Helping Hands Ministry of First Presbyterian Church, Washington.

Paul Funeral Home is honored to serve the Hawkins family.